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  • Writer's pictureCassandra L. Wilkinson

Support Your National Library: Don't Forget To Make Mandatory Deposits

Did you know that you are required by law to send the Library of Congress two copies of everything you publish? United States Copyright Law, 17 USC §407, requires the owner of a copyright or the exclusive right to publish a work to send two complete copies of the best edition of that work to the Library of Congress within three months after publication, unless the work is exempt from the deposit requirement and subject to certain requirements.
Under Copyright law, “publication” is defined as “ the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.”
You can fulfill your mandatory deposit requirement at the same time you register your copyright in the work if you register within three months of publication. If you do not register your copyright and you fail to make your mandatory deposit, the Register of Copyrights may demand that you make the deposit. If you do not comply within three months, you could be required to pay a fine of $250 for each work, plus reimburse the Library of Congress the cost of independently acquiring your work. If you wilfully or repeatedly fail to comply with such a demand, you could be liable for an additional fine of $2,500.
Under federal regulation 37 CFR 202.19, the following categories of materials are exempt from mandatory deposit:
(1) Diagrams and models illustrating scientific or technical works or formulating scientific or technical information in linear or three-dimensional form, such as an architectural or engineering blueprint, plan, or design, a mechanical drawing, or an anatomical model.
(2) Greeting cards, picture postcards, and stationery.
(3) Lectures, sermons, speeches, and addresses when published individually and not as a collection of the works of one or more authors.
(4) Literary, dramatic, and musical works published only as embodied in phonorecords. This category does not exempt the owner of copyright, or of the exclusive right of publication, in a sound recording resulting from the fixation of such works in a phonorecord from the applicable deposit requirements for the sound recording.
(5) Automated databases available only on-line in the United States. The exemption does not include the following: automated databases distributed in the form of machine-readable copies (such as magnetic tape or disks, CD-ROM formats, punch cards, or the like); computerized information works in the nature of statistical compendia, serials, and reference works; works published in a form requiring the use of a machine or device for purposes of optical enlargement (such as film, filmstrips, slide films and works published in any variety of microform); works published in visually perceptible form but used in connection with optical scanning devices; and works reproduced in CD-ROM formats.
(6) Three-dimensional sculptural works, and any works published only as reproduced in or on jewelry, dolls, toys, games, plaques, floor coverings, wallpaper and similar commercial wall coverings, textiles and other fabrics, packaging material, or any useful article. Globes, relief models, and similar cartographic representations of area are not within this category and are subject to the applicable deposit requirements.
(7) Prints, labels, and other advertising matter, including catalogs, published in connection with the rental lease, lending, licensing, or sale of articles of merchandise, works of authorship, or services.
(8) Tests, and answer material for tests when published separately from other literary works.
(9) Works first published as individual contributions to collective works. This category does not exempt the owner of copyright, or of the exclusive right of publication, in the collective work as a whole, from the applicable deposit requirements for the collective work.
(10) Works first published outside the United States and later published in the United States without change in copyrightable content, if:
(i) Registration for the work was made under 17 U.S.C. 408 before the work was published in the United States; or
(ii) Registration for the work was made under 17 U.S.C. 408 after the work was published in the United States but before a demand for deposit is made under 17 U.S.C. 407(d).
(11) Works published only as embodied in a soundtrack that is an integral part of a motion picture. This category does not exempt the owner of copyright, or of the exclusive right of publication, in the motion picture, from the applicable deposit requirements for the motion picture.
(12) Motion pictures that consist of television transmission programs and that have been published, if at all, only by reason of a license or other grant to a nonprofit institution of the right to make a fixation of such programs directly from a transmission to the public, with or without the right to make further uses of such fixations.
For more information about mandatory deposit, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website at
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