Copyright Searches

McHale| Slavin conducts comprehensive searches for our clients to determine the copyright status and ownership of copyrighted works. The search process entails investigating whether a work is currently under copyright protection. It may include determining a work's publication history and authorship information, copyright registration and status, and whether assignments or other documents relating to the work have been recorded. The process often involves searching not only the original records of registration and renewals but also various indexes relating to records of assignments and other documents affecting copyright ownership. If there is imminent or ongoing litigation, a search may extend to inspecting copies of copyright deposit material and reviewing correspondence between the applicant and the U.S. Copyright Office.

Investigating the copyright status of a work requires understanding the subtleties of statutory enactments including the Copyright Act of 1976, the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, the Copyright Renewal Act of 1992, and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. The process often includes searching not only the original records of registration and renewals but also various indexes covering the records of assignments and other documents affecting copyright ownership and, if appropriate, inspecting copies of copyright deposit material and reviewing correspondence between the applicant and the U.S. Copyright Office.

The lack of a registration is not presumptive of lack of protection. Works may have entered the pubic domain for any of a number of reasons. Certain works (e.g., titles, ideas, government works) are not protectable under the copyright laws. Under the copyright law in effect prior to January 1, 1978, copyright could be lost if a work was published without the requisite notice of copyright, if the first 28 year-term of copyright expired without renewal, or at the end of the renewal term. Even if a work may be in the public domain in the United States, it may not necessarily be freely used in other countries. Each nation has its own copyright laws governing the scope and length of protection. The duration of copyright protection varies as well - generally, the term of protection for works created on or after January 1, 1978 is based on the life of the author plus 70 years after the author's death.

The domestic and international copyright laws and regulations are complex and our firm is expert in its understanding of those complexities and advising our clients accordingly. We can negotiate contracts, rights and permissions, and licenses based on the results of the searches we conduct. Contact us for additional information or to schedule a consultation.