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Circular 12

12.1014

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Recordation of Transfers and Other Documents

Whether or not a copyrighted work has been registered with the U. S. Copyright Office, owners of these works often enter into agreements that affect their own- ership rights. For instance, owners may transfer copyright ownership to another person. Owners may also authorize others to use their works, even giving some- one else control over ways in which a work is used. Under section 205 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code), documents pertaining to such agreements, and other documents pertaining to copyrights, may be recorded in the Copyright Office.

Recording a transfer of copyright ownership or other document pertaining to a copyright with the Copyright Office under section 205 is voluntary. How- ever, to encourage document recordation, the law confers certain legal advan- tages, including priority between conflicting transfers and “constructive notice” of the facts stated in the recorded document to the public if certain require- ments are met. (See “Benefits of Recordation” on page 2.) Any document per- taining to a transfer of copyright ownership or other document pertaining to a copyright may be recorded as long as the person submitting it complies with the procedures set forth in the Copyright Act and the Office’s regulations.

This circular explains what recordation is, describes the benefits of and requirements for recordation, and provides instruction on how to record a transfer of copyright ownership or other document pertaining to a copyright with the Copyright Office under section 205. Please note, however, that this circular does not address the recordation requirements for documents related to notices of termination, designation of agents for online service providers, identification of anonymous/pseudonymous authors, author death statements, visual arts registry statements, or shareware registry statements. Nor are docu- ments filed with the Licensing Division of the Copyright Office covered here.

While this circular provides general information on the recordation of trans- fers of copyright ownership and other documents pertaining to a copyright, it is not meant to provide legal advice about the rights or remedies of individuals under the Copyright Act. See 37 C.F.R. § 201.2(a)(3). If you are unsure about a legal issue relating to recordation, the Office suggests that you consult a knowl- edgeable attorney.

What Is Recordation?

Federal law provides for the recording of documents pertaining to copyright in one central location, the Copyright Office. The Office maintains true and accu- rate copies of recorded documents and makes them available for public inspec- tion. See 37 C.F.R. § 201.2(b).

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