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Copyright Samples

Along with your form and the appropriate fee, you are required to file a copy ("sample" or "deposit") of the copyrighted work with the Copyright Office. Generally, if the work is published, two copies of the "best edition" are required. The nature of the sample depends upon the nature of the work. The following information is drawn from Copyright Office publications 7b and 40a.

Note that in all cases the deposit should show how the copyright notice is applied to the work. That is, if you are filing the first and last 25 pages of a computer program, be sure the copyright notice appears on one of the pages. Similarly, a photograph of a sculpture should show the notice printed on the base, etc.

  • PRINTED TEXTUAL MATTER: One copy if unpublished, two copies of "Best Edition" if published. See publication 7b for requirements of "Best Edition" - basically, requires hard cover instead of soft, illustrated instead of unillustrated, etc.
  • PHOTOGRAPHS: One copy if unpublished, two if published. Samples should be unmounted rather than mounted, Archival-quality if possible. 
    Size and finish, in descending order of preference: 
    1. The most widely distributed edition; 
    2. 8x10-inch glossy print; 
    3. Other size or finish. 
    If slides, should be at least 35mm in mounts 3x3 inches or less.
  • Other works of the visual arts:
    • One copy if the work is not published. "Identifying material" is acceptable in some cases - see publication 40a.
    • Two copies of published maps, artwork, drawings, illustrations, paintings, posters, prints, brochures, or exhibit catalogs, and similar material.
    • One copy of published advertisements, artwork for linens or wearing apparel, blueprint or architectural or mechanical drawing or diagram, book cover or record jacket, commercial print or label, contribution to collective work, fabric, wallpaper, wrapping paper, fabric emblem or patch or decal or heat transfer, greeting card, postcard, stationery, business card, calendar, clothing pattern, needlework or craft kit, globe (including stand).
    • "Identifying Material" is acceptable in place of an actual copy of the work in some circumstances: If the work is only in machine readable form, or is oversize (over 96" in any dimension), or is a "limited edition" (published in less than 5 copies, or less than 300 copies if an individual author is the owner of copyright), three dimensional works (except globes), games in containers larger than 12"x24"x6", fabric attached to three-dimensional objects (i.e. furniture), artwork applied to three-dimensional objects (i.e. pictures on mugs). Identifying material means photographs (prints or slides) showing the work. Photographs should meet the same requirements and preferences listed above for photographic works.
  • MOTION PICTURES and other audiovisual works: One copy of the motion picture PLUS a written description of its contents (shooting script, continuity, press book or synopsis). Prefered formats are as follows:
    • Film rather than another medium. Film editions in descending order of preference: 1. Preprint material, by special arrangement; 2. Film gauge in which most widely distributed; 3. 35 mm; 4. 16 mm; 5. 8 mm.; 6. Special formats (e.g., 65mm) only in exceptional cases.
    • Videotape rather than videodisc. Videotape editions in descending order of preference: 1. Tape gauge in which most widely distributed; 2. Two-inch tape; 3. One-inch tape; 4. Three-quarter-inch tape cassette; 5. One-half-inch tape cassette (VHS rather than Beta).
  • MUSICAL COMPOSITIONS: if the work exists only on sound recording (i.e. has never been written down in musical notation), then see "phonorecords"). Otherwise, deposit two copies of work.
  • PHONORECORDS: The required deposit depends on whether or not the phonorecord is being offered to register the underlying music or the performance, or both. If only the music is being registered, and it only exists on phonorecord, then only one copy is required (if the music exists in written form, then the written score should be filed instead). In all other cases two copies should be filed. Note that the copyright in the music and the performance can only be recorded simultaneously if the author is the same. 
    Preferred media are, in decreasing order of preference: 
    A. Compact digital disc; 
    B. Vinyl disc; 
    C. Open-reel tape; 
    D. Cartridge tape; 
    E. Cassette tape. 
    In terms of format, preferred are: 
    A. Quadraphonic; 
    B. True stereophonic; 
    C. Monaural; 
    D. electronically rechanneled stereo.
  • Computer Programs: If the program source code is fifty pages or less, deposit one copy of the complete listing. If it exceeds fifty pages, file the first and last twenty-five pages, including at least one page showing the copyright notice. 
    Note: we generally recommend that clients file pages which do not reveal trade secrets, since in today's modular programming the definition of "first" and "last" is somewhat arbitrary. If this is not possible, a certain amount of text may be blocked out without problem. For more information consult Copyright Circular 61.

The Library of Congress may request a copy in machine-readable form, in which case the following preferences apply:

  • With documents and other accompanying material rather than without;
  • Not copy-protected rather than copy-protected (if copy-protected then with a back up copy of the disk(s));
  • Format:

    PC-DOS or MS-DOS (or other IBM compatible formats, such as XENIX): (i) Optical media, such as CD-ROM-best edition should adhere to prevailing NISO standards; (ii) 5 1/4" Diskette(s); (iii) 3 1/2" Diskette(s); 

    Apple Macintosh: (i)Optical media such as CD-ROM-best edition should adhere to prevailing NISO standards; (ii)  3 1/2" Diskette(s);

  • For the most up-to-date information on copyright samples, see the Copyright Office's publication 7b


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