This is an illustration page of the
Copyright Registration and Renewal Information Chart and Web Site

Visitors to this site who are unfamiliar with copyright terminology and context should begin with the
step-by-step tree-view chart for answers about copyright law.

(see illustration at right)

Once readers have visited both the tree-view chart and one or more illustrations pages such as this one, they are advised to learn how courts have ruled on specific aspects of copyright by going to pages of Citations and Court Summaries and by reading the copyright laws themselves.  (The CopyrightData web site has all versions of the United States Copyright Act in effect from 1909 to the present.)

For an overview of copyright law and this web site, visit the One Page Guide

Click below to go to:

First page of Illustrations section Site Map Copyright Law Contact



This section concerns the deposit requirements of the copyright law.  The questions help the user determine whether copyright protection necessitated deposit of the work with the U.S. Copyright Office and whether any such requirement was met.

  • Copyright law entails some requirements that one or two copies be deposited with the United States Copyright Office as a condition of copyright protection. The number of copies required varies by medium, and in some instances the deposit requirement can be met by a description, microfilm, microfiche, photographs (in case of a bulky object), or movie soundtrack (in case of a movie). Requirements may be waived by plea of financial hardship. Details are in the tree-view chart. A A
  • The Library of Congress (acting on behalf of the Copyright Office) has 30 days upon receipt of a motion picture to decide whether to keep it. If the Library returns it, the deposit requirement was met. (Past practices differed.) A
  • The Copyright Office may have paperwork indicating that the registrant pleaded to be released from the deposit requirement. If the Copyright Office acceded to the request, that ended the matter. A
  • For works dated through 1977, copyright protection could be lost when deposit requirements were not met: “… in default of the deposit of copies of the work within [time limits]… the proprietor of the copyright shall be liable to a fine…, and the copyright shall become void.” A
  • For works dated 1978 and later, monetary charges are levied for noncompliance with the deposit requirements. A

NOTE: Copyright law refers to “copies or phonorecords” to differentiate copies of sound recordings from copies of other types of media.  For purposes of this guide, the term “copies” should be interpreted to subsume phonorecords.

Title 17, §407 requires that two copies or phonorecords of the work be deposited with the Library of Congress as part of the copyright procedure.  Section §407(c) of the 1976 Act and §13 of the 1947 Act (as amended 1956) allow for exceptions, and in practice many rights-holders to bulky, fragile, expensive and near-one-of-a-kind works have secured either an exemption to deposit or the return of the deposited material to the claimant owing to the circumstances which would impose “practical or financial hardships on the depositor, where … (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, [or] the monetary value of which would make the mandatory deposit of two copies of the best edition of the work burdensome, unfair, or unreasonable.”

Even before the 1956 amendment to the 1947 Act, movie companies would deposit a copy of a movie to fulfill the deposit requirements and then secure the return of the deposit.  Motion picture copies were expensive to print and would have financial value for the several upcoming months when the production would be in general release.  What follows is a Copyright Office document recording the dates that a particular motion picture was received, examined and returned.

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below: The letter from the claimant of the same motion picture as above.  This letter precipitated the legwork within the Copyright Office which led to the return of the deposit, thereby freeing the prints so that they could be sent to theaters which rented the movie.  (Note: Monogram Pictures had their studios on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.  The Washington, D.C. address was apparently a field office.)  The partially-obscurred hand-lettering above and to the left of the signature “E.J. Harman” reads “return to.”

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below: A different movie company, United Artists (which likewise made its movies in California), used the same form in making its own requests of the Copyright Office for return of deposited materials.

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below: Yet another prominent maker of theatrical motion pictures, Columbia, used a different form letter in making their requests for return of deposited materials.  Nonetheless, the crux was the same, and the signature at the bottom affirms that the Copyright Office acceded to the request.

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You’ve seen the illustrations —
You’ve read the captions —
Now read passages from the law
and read what the courts decided.

Read Citations and Case Summaries on:
Deposit (including: deposit made too early)
Best edition for deposit (no case summaries)

    •     •     •

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The Copyright Registration and Renewal Information Chart and Web Site
© 2007,2008 David P. Hayes