Copyright Searches: Why They're Recommended and How They're Done

Copyright is a form of protection for intellectual property. A copyright can be put on literary, musical, dramatic, and artistic work. Copyrightable work must be original, independently created, and possess at least a minimal degree of creativity. The fair use defense is used in newspaper reporting, criticism, research, and parodies. This means that the work has to be different and only a limited amount of the original piece can be used. Copyright doesn’t protect ideas and/or concepts but rather the form of the ideas and/or concepts. Copyright searches are necessary because otherwise the issue of copyright infringement arises.

Before registering for copyright, a copyright search has to be conducted. This can be done through the US Copyright Catalog, which is led by the US Copyright Office. A search can be done by an individual or a professional. On the catalog, which is a website, a simple search can be conducted. It shows what has been registered and copyright ownership documentation. The catalog is very straightforward when trying to conduct a search. The only issue is that records of publications prior to 1978 cannot be found through this catalog. To search for anything before 1978 requires going to the Copyright Public Records Reading Room in the library of Congress. If a party doesn’t have time to perform the search on their own or deep knowledge of the IP law in order to make an informed decision about the possibility of infringement of the already excising item, an intellectual property lawyer can help.

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