Generally, to properly file a copyright application, the applicant must complete three components. First, the applicant must complete an online application. This process is relatively straightforward and requires certain pieces of information to be filled out and specified concerning the type of work, year of creation, publication information, author(s), claimant(s), and certain limits on use (if applicable). Second, the applicant must submit a filing fee by credit card, debit card, bank account, or deposit account. Lastly, the applicant must upload an electronic deposit copy of the work or send a physical deposit copy. The purpose of this article is to address the last component regarding deposits specifically.

The term “deposit,” in the context of copyrights, refers to the completed copy or copies of a work that the applicant must submit to register the work with the U. S. Copyright Office. The deposit requirements vary depending on the nature of the work being submitted, including whether the work is published or unpublished, in physical or digital format, and if the first publication was in the United States or a foreign country. Additionally, there are two deposits to be concerned with: application deposit and mandatory deposit.

The application deposit has two forms of submission. First, there is the avenue of electronic submission. The applicant must comply with several requirements to upload the application deposit electronically. There are seven factors to consider when determining whether an applicant can utilize an electronic upload. Of these seven, the two most essential factors are whether the work was published and, if it was, whether the work was solely in digital format or also in print. If a work is published exclusively online, the applicant can upload its deposit electronically. This can be helpful as it speeds up the process of completing and complying with the registration requirements. However, if the publication of the work was also in print, the applicant can no longer utilize the electronic upload function. Instead, the applicant must submit a physical copy of the work.

The second form of submission for the application deposit is the physical deposit. A physical deposit must be submitted if the work was published digitally and in print. Additionally, an applicant must submit a physical deposit if the work is published solely in print format, if the work was published abroad, and if the work was first published in print or physical format prior to digital.

The next question, as it relates to the application deposit, is the number of copies an applicant must submit. This question is rather simple. If the work the applicant is registering is unpublished, only one copy of the work must be submitted. If, however, the work that the applicant is registering is published in hard copy, whether in conjunction with a digital format or alone, two copies may need to be submitted (this determination centers around whether the work meets any exceptions as specified by the Copyright Office from time to time). Additionally, as for published works that were published solely in digital or electronic format, at least one copy must be uploaded. Regardless of the number of copies to be submitted or uploaded, each copy must be complete. Generally, a work is complete if it contains all the copyrightable authorship claimed on the copyright application.

The second deposit to be concerned with, apart from the application deposit, is the mandatory deposit. The mandatory deposit comes into play when the copyright owner or owner with the exclusive right of publication, with respect to a work published in the United States, must deposit the required number of complete copies or phonorecords with the Copyright Office within three months of the date of publication. Generally, a copyright owner can satisfy the mandatory deposit requirement by submitting a copyright application to register a work, provided the owner submits two complete copies or phonorecords of the best edition. The “best edition,” for purposes of the mandatory deposit requirement, is the edition published in the United States at any time before the date of the deposit that the Library of Congress determines to be most suitable for its purposes. Alternatively, the owner of the work can submit the required works to the Copyright Office without seeking registration.

The mandatory deposit requirement does not apply to all works seeking copyright registration. For instance, unpublished works and works that are published solely outside the United States are not subject to this requirement. Moreover, works published only online are not subject to a mandatory deposit. The purpose of the mandatory deposit is for the Library of Congress to update and maintain its collections and use them in the national library programs. Thus, the list of exemptions for works not required to submit a mandatory deposit, as mentioned here, is not exhaustive. In fact, even if a work is exempt from submitting a mandatory deposit, the Register or Copyright Office may submit a written demand for the work to be submitted.

Overall, this article serves as a general outline of the deposit process for copyright registration. While there are more details and specifics to keep in mind, this overview hopefully provides insight into the world of copyrights, specifically deposits. Understanding this deposit rule will result in faster copyright registration and processing from the Copyright Office.

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