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The process of recordation entails (1) receiving copyright related documents from remitters for recordation; (2) review- ing the documents to ensure they are eligible for recordation; (3) indexing information contained in the documents for use in the Office’s public catalog of recorded documents; (4) making copies of the documents so they are available for public inspection; and (5) returning documents marked as recorded to remitters. The public catalog, which is available on the Internet for documents recorded after 1977, includes a description of each recorded document, including party names, titles of works, registration numbers (when available), heading notes, and other information.

The Copyright Office does not enforce agreements that are reflected in recorded documents. Although the Copyright Office has minimum requirements that must be satisfied for a document to be recorded, such as the document being complete by its own terms, the Office does not determine whether documents satisfy legal requirements that are neces- sary for the documents to be effective or enforceable.

Benefits of Recordation

While the recordation of a transfer of copyright ownership or other document pertaining to a copyright is not mandatory, there are several advantages to recordation. These include the following:

  • Under certain conditions, recordation establishes legal priority between conflicting transfers or between a trans- fer and a nonexclusive license.

  • Recordation establishes a public record of the contents of the transfer or document.

  • Some courts have held that a security interest in a reg- istered work must be recorded with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to perfect the creditor’s interest.

  • Recordation of a document in the Office may provide the advantage of “constructive notice,” a legal concept meaning that members of the public are deemed to have knowledge of the facts stated in the document and cannot claim otherwise. Section 205 of the Copyright Act says that recordation of a document in the Office gives all per- sons constructive notice of the facts stated in the recorded document, but only if the following two conditions are satisfied:

    • The document or material attached to it specifically identifies the work to which it pertains so that, after the document is indexed by the Register of Copyrights, it would be revealed by a reasonable search under the title or registration number of the work; and

Recordation of Transfers and Other Documents · 2

  • Registration has been made for the work.

What May Be Recorded

A document that transfers copyright ownership or any other document pertaining to a copyright may be recorded in the Copyright Office if it meets the requirements described in the section entitled “Requirements for a Document to Be Recorded” below.

Transfers of Copyright Ownership

A “transfer of copyright ownership” is an assignment, mort- gage, grant of an exclusive license, transfer by will or intestate succession, or any other conveyance, alienation, or hypoth- ecation of any or all of the exclusive rights in a copyright, whether or not it is limited in time or place of effect. It does not include a nonexclusive license. See 17 U.S.C. § 101 (defini- tion of “transfer of copyright ownership”).

A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by opera- tion of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance (for example, contract, bond, or deed) or a note or memo- randum of the transfer is in writing and is signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or the owner’s duly authorized agent. See 17 U.S.C. § 204(a).

The Office will record a transfer of copyright ownership after it has been executed by the parties. No special content is necessary for the document other than the requirements provided in the Copyright Act. Note, however, that parties wishing to record a transfer of copyright ownership should submit to the Office the legal instrument that transfers the copyright from one party to another; describing the transfer will not suffice.

Notarization and certificates of acknowledgment are unnecessary for the recordation of transfers of copyright ownership. Section 204(b) of the Copyright Act, however, states that a certificate of acknowledgment can serve as prima facie evidence of the execution of a transfer of copy- right ownership if one of the two following conditions is satisfied:

  • In the case of a transfer executed in the United States, the certificate is issued by a person authorized to administer oaths within the United States; or

  • In the case of a transfer executed in a foreign country, the certificate is issued by a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States or by a person authorized to administer oaths whose authority is proved by the certificate of such an officer.

17 U.S.C. § 204(b).

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