The Confidentiality of Your Federal Copyright Submission
The confidentiality of a federal copyright application and deposit is an issue that is of concern to many of our clients. Often times the confidentiality issue is the determinative factor in terms of whether to pursue a federal copyright registration. In our August 2005 issue of Intellections (click here)
, we addressed the benefits of a federal copyright registration. These benefits must be weighed against the risk of public disclosure, however. For works like jewelry, posters, books and other types of items that are sold publicly, confidentiality is not an issue. But for works like internal training and procedures manuals, functional specifications, and software, confidentiality is a primary concern.
Generally speaking, the copyright office is not obligated to maintain the confidentiality of your application or deposit. (The deposit is usually a photocopy or sample of the work to be registered.) In fact, Section 704 of the Copyright Act states that all materials deposited with the Copyright Office are the property of the United States Government. Section 705 requires the Registrar of Copyrights to keep records of all deposits and registrations and to make those records open to public inspection. If you ask the Copyright Office for a report of the information they have disclosed with respect to your registration or deposit, they will provide it to you for a fee (see Section 705(c)), but you cannot prevent the disclosure from occurring.
Copies of registration certificates are fairly easy to obtain. Registrations can be searched on the Copyright Office website www.copyright.gov
by author name, title of the work, or registration number. When a record is pulled up, certain data concerning the registration will be displayed, but the deposit itself is not made available online. Copies of actual registration certificates can be ordered by phone (202-707-3000) or by submitting a request to the Copyright Office in writing.
To view an actual deposit, it is necessary to visit the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C. Two to three weeks prior to your visit, a written request to inspect the deposit must be submitted