Register Copyright: Deposit Requirements


By Andrew Hudson Published: May 25, 2012 Updated: November 1, 2013

If you’ve only made your photos available online (in form and not in a printed form, other than postcards and greeting cards), then you do not need to submit printed copies as the “deposit” with your copyright registration — you can just submit files (such as JPEG files).

For photos published as prints, or in your own books, or in nay other hardcopy tangible form (other than postcards and greeting cards), then two copies of the best version (e.g. for books a hardcover version if there is one) must be submitted. (If four or less copies were published, then one copy.) If you are applying online, you can send the printed copies separately by mail.

Deposit, per U.S. Copyright Law

“the owner of copyright or of the exclusive right of publication in a work published in the United States shall deposit, within three months after the date of such publication two complete copies of the best edition. … The required copies or phonorecords shall be deposited in the Copyright Office for the use or disposition of the Library of Congress.”
USC 17 §407

For photos (in form), postcards, and greeting cards, the Copyright Office makes an exception and will accept (and prefers to receive) versions, such as a JPEG (.jpg) file.

“A physical copy is not required for works that are published or distributed only electronically.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

“If you file an application for copyright registration online using eCO, you may [for photos] attach an electronic copy of your deposit.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1

Part 2: Protect:
2.3 Register:
Deposit

What is “deposit”?

“Section 407 of the Copyright Act (title 17, U.S. Code) subjects all works published in the United States to a mandatory deposit requirement. The law states that the “owner of copyright or of the exclusive right of publication” in a work published in the United States must deposit the required number of copies in the Copyright Office within three months of the date of publication. Publication is defined in copyright law as the “distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease, or lending.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

“All works under copyright protection that are published in the United States are subject to the mandatory deposit provision of the copyright law. This law requires that two copies of the best edition of every copyrightable work published in the United States be sent to the Copyright Office within three months of publication.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

Why is there mandatory deposit?

“The mandatory deposit provision ensures that the Copyright Office is entitled to receive copies of every copyrightable work published in the United States. Section 407 states that the deposits are to be made “available to the Library of Congress for its collections or for exchange or transfer to any other library.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

Do I have to send a copy of my photo?

“Although a copyright registration is not required, the Copyright Act establishes a mandatory deposit requirement for works published in the United States. .. In general, the owner of copyright .. has a legal obligation to deposit in the Copyright Office, within three months of publication in the United States, two copies .. for the use of the Library of Congress.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1

Can I submit the deposit copy of my photo online?

“If you file an application for copyright registration online using eCO, you may [for photos] attach an electronic copy of your deposit.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1

My photos are only online; do I have to send a physical copy?

“A physical copy is not required for works that are published or distributed only electronically. To access eCO, go to the Copyright Office website at www.copyright.gov.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

What if my photos are in a book?

“if you are registering a [physically] published work, a physical copy of the best published edition is required under section 407.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

“If a registration for a claim to copyright in a published work is filed online and the deposit is submitted online, the actual physical deposit must still be submitted to satisfy mandatory deposit requirements.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1

“..if you must send a hard copy or copies of your deposit to comply with the “best edition” requirements for published works, you must print out a shipping slip, attach it to your deposit, and mail the deposit to the Copyright Office. Send the deposit, fee, and paper registration form packaged together to:

Library of Congress
U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20559-6211
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1

“if the work was first published in the United States on or after January 1, 1978, two complete copies .. of the best edition. .. When registering with eCO, you will receive via your printer a shipping slip that you must include with your deposit that you send to the Copyright Office. This shipping slip is unique to your claim to copyright and will link your deposit to your application.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1

For a book, can I send a paperback or does it have to be a hardcover?

“When two or more editions of the same version of a work (hard and soft cover editions of books, for example) have been published before the date of deposit, the Library of Congress generally considers the one of the highest quality to be the best edition (the hard bound edition of a book, for example).”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

What does “best edition” mean?

“The definition of “best edition” of a work in the law makes clear that the Library of Congress is entitled to receive the copies or phonorecords of the edition that best suits its needs. Its choice may be made from any editions that have been published in the United States before the date of deposit.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

“When two or more editions of the same version of a work (hard and soft cover editions of books, for example) have been published before the date of deposit, the Library of Congress generally considers the one of the highest quality to be the best edition (the hard bound edition of a book, for example).”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 7d

Will I get my hard-copy “deposit” back?

“The hard­copy deposit of the work being registered will not be returned to you.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1

“Exemptions from deposit requirements. The following categories of material are exempt from the deposit requirements of section 407(a) of title 17: .. (2) Greeting cards, picture postcards, and stationery.”
U.S. Code, Title 37, Section 202.19

“Exemptions from deposit requirements. The following categories of material are exempt from the deposit requirements of section 407(a) of title 17: .. (5) Electronic works published in the United States and available only online. .. This exemption does not apply to works that are published in both online, electronic formats and in physical formats, which remain subject to the appropriate mandatory deposit requirements.”
U.S. Code, Title 37, Section 202.19

“(d)(1) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (d)(2) of this section, the deposit required to satisfy the provisions of section 407(a) of title 17 shall consist of: (i) In the case of published works other than sound recordings, two complete copies of the best edition.”
U.S. Code, Title 37, Section 202.19

“(d)(2)(iv) In any case where an individual author is the owner of copyright in a published pictorial or graphic work and (A) less than five copies of the work have been published, or (B) the work has been published and sold or offered for sale in a limited edition consisting of no more than three hundred numbered copies, the deposit of one complete copy of the best edition of the work or, alternatively, the deposit of photographs or other identifying material in compliance with §202.21 of these regulations, will suffice in lieu of the two copies required by paragraph (d)(1) of this section.”
U.S. Code, Title 37, Section 202.19

“(d)(2)(viii) Where a literary, musical, pictorial, graphic, or audiovisual work, or a sound recording, except for works fixed in a CD-ROM format .. has been published only in machine-readable form, the deposit must consist of identifying material. The type of identifying material submitted should generally be appropriate to the type of work embodied in machine-readable form, but in all cases should be that which best represents the copyrightable content of the work. In all cases the identifying material must include the title of the work. .. the identifying material must include a representation of the copyright notice, if one exists. Identifying material requirements .. (A) For pictorial or graphic works, the deposit shall consist of identifying material in compliance with §202.21 of these regulations.”
U.S. Code, Title 37, Section 202.19

“(d)(2)(ix) Where a published literary work is embodied in copies containing both visually-perceptible and machine-readable material, except in the case of a CD-ROM format, the deposit shall consist of the visually-perceptible material and identifying portions of the machine-readable material.”
U.S. Code, Title 37, Section 202.19

“(d)(2)(xx) For groups of photographs registered with one application under §202.3(b)(4)(i)(B) (unpublished collections) or §202.3(b)(10) (group registration of published photographs) and for automated databases that consist predominantly of photographs registered with an application submitted electronically under §202.3(b)(5)(ii)(A), photographs must be deposited in one of the following formats (listed in the Library’s order of preference):

  • (A) form on one or more CD-ROMs (including CD-RWs) or DVD-ROMs, in one of the following formats: JPEG, GIF, TIFF, or PCD;
  • (B) Unmounted prints measuring at least 3 inches by 3 inches (not to exceed 20 inches by 24 inches);
  • (C) Contact sheets;
  • (D) Slides, each with a single image;
  • (E) A format in which the photograph has been published (e.g., clippings from newspapers or magazines);
  • (F) A photocopy of each of the photographs included in the group or database, clearly depicting the photograph, provided that if registration is made pursuant to §202.3(b)(10) for group registration of photographs, the photocopy must be either a photocopy of an unmounted print measuring at least 3 inches by 3 inches (not to exceed 20 inches by 24 inches) or a photocopy of the photograph in a format in which it has been published, and if the photograph was published as a color photograph, the photocopy must be a color photocopy;
  • (G) Slides, each containing up to 36 images; or
  • (H) A videotape clearly depicting each photograph.

U.S. Code, Title 37, Section 202.19

“(e) Use of copies and phonorecords deposited for the Library of Congress. Copies and phonorecords deposited for the Library of Congress under section 407 of title 17 and §202.19 of these regulations may be used to satisfy the deposit provisions of this section if they are accompanied by an application for registration of claim to copyright in the work represented by the deposit, and either a registration fee or a deposit account number on the application.”
U.S. Code, Title 37, Section 202.19

“..the owner of copyright or of the exclusive right of publication in a work published in the United States shall deposit, within three months after the date of such publication .. two complete copies of the best edition.
17 USC §407

“Neither the deposit requirements of this subsection nor the acquisition provisions of subsection (e) are conditions of copyright protection.
17 USC §407

“The required copies or phonorecords shall be deposited in the Copyright Office for the use or disposition of the Library of Congress. The Register of Copyrights shall, when requested by the depositor and upon payment of the fee prescribed by section 708, issue a receipt for the deposit.
17 USC §407

“The Register of Copyrights may by regulation exempt any categories of material from the deposit requirements of this section, or require deposit of only one copy or phonorecord with respect to any categories.
17 USC §407

“The Register of Copyrights may .. provide either for complete exemption from the deposit requirements of this section, or for alternative forms of deposit aimed at providing a satisfactory archival record of a work without imposing practical or financial hardships on the depositor, where the individual author is the owner of copyright in a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work and (i) less than five copies of the work have been published, or (ii) the work has been published in a limited edition consisting of numbered copies, the monetary value of which would make the mandatory deposit of two copies of the best edition of the work burdensome, unfair, or unreasonable.
17 USC §407

Deposit for Copyright Registration. — Except as provided by subsection (c), the material deposited for registration shall include

  • (1) in the case of an unpublished work, one complete copy or phonorecord;
  • (2) in the case of a published work, two complete copies or phonorecords of the best edition;
  • (3) in the case of a work first published outside the United States, one complete copy or phonorecord as so published;
  • (4) in the case of a contribution to a collective work, one complete copy or phonorecord of the best edition of the collective work.

17 USC §408

“Copies or phonorecords deposited for the Library of Congress under section 407 may be used to satisfy the deposit provisions of this section, if they are accompanied by the prescribed application and fee..
17 USC §408

Part 2: Protect:
2.3 Registration:
Required Deposit

Required Deposit
Nature of Work:
Two-Dimensional
PublishedUnpublished
Book jackets or record jackets1 complete copy1 copy
Commercial print published in newspaper or other periodical1 copy of entire page or pages
Commercial print or label (For example: flyer, label, brochure, or catalog used in connection with sale of goods or services)1 complete copy1 copy
Contributions to collective works (photographs, drawings, cartoons, and so on published as part of a periodical or anthology)1 complete copy of best edition of entire collective work; complete section containing contribution if published in newspaper; entire page containing contribution; contribution cut from newspaper; or photocopy of contribution as published
Greeting cards, picture postcards, stationery, business cards, calendars1 complete copy1 copy or ID material
Pictorial or graphic works (For example: artwork, drawings, illustrations, paintings)2 complete copiesID material
Pictorial or graphic works fixed only in machine-readable formID material1 copy or proof, photocopy, contact sheet
Posters, photographs, prints, brochures, exhibition catalogs2 complete copies
“Limited edition” posters, prints, or etchings (published in quantities of fewer than 5 copies, or 300 or fewer numbered copies if individual author is owner of copyright)1 copy or ID material
Oversize material (exceeding 96" in any dimension)ID materialID material

best edition

“The “best edition” is the edition published in the United States at any time before the date of deposit in the Copyright Office that the Library of Congress determines to be most suitable for its purposes. Generally, when more than one edition is available, the best edition is larger rather than smaller; color rather than black and white; and printed on archival-quality rather than less permanent paper.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 40

Identifying material

““Identifying material” or “ID material” generally consists of two-dimensional reproduction(s) or rendering(s) of a work in the form of photographic prints, transparencies, photocopies, or drawings that show the complete copyrightable content of the work being registered.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 40

  • Type of identifying material: The material should consist of photographic prints, transparencies, photocopies, drawings, or similar two-dimensional reproductions or renderings of the work in a form visually perceivable without the aid of a machine or device.
  • Color or black and white: If the work is a pictorial or graphic work, the material should reproduce the actual colors employed in the work. In all other cases, the material can be in black and white or can consist of a reproduction of the actual colors.
  • Completeness: As many pieces of identifying material should be submitted as are necessary to show clearly the entire copyrightable content of the work for which registration is being sought.
  • Number of sets: Only one set of complete identifying material is required. Note: With respect to three-dimensional holograms, contact the Copyright Office for additional information.
  • Size: Photographic transparencies must be at least 35mm in size and, if 3"×3" or less, must be fixed in cardboard, plastic, or similar mounts; transparencies larger than 3"×3" should be mounted. All types of identifying material other than photographic transparencies must be not less than 3"×3" and not more than 9"×12", but preferably 8"×10". The image of the work should show clearly the entire copyrightable content of the work.
  • Title and dimension: At least one piece of identifying material must give the title of the work on its front, back, or mount and should include an exact measurement of one or more dimensions of the work.

U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 40

“For a work published with notice of copyright, the notice and its position on the work must be shown clearly on at least one piece of identifying material. If necessary because of the size or position of the notice, a separate drawing or similar reproduction can be submitted. Such reproduction should be no smaller than 3"×3" and no larger than 9"×12" and should show the exact appearance and content of the notice and its specific position on the work.”
U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 40a

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