How to Do a Copyright Search?
A legamart lawyer with magnifying glass doing a Copyright Search

How to Do a Copyright Search? 


Putting copyrights into perspective, let’s suppose Ann, a music artist, is very fond of her work and wants to enter the music industry. She believes her work is unique, and due to the highly competitive environment, she wants to ensure that it is not stolen when she publishes it online. Therefore, Ann joins hands with a music production house that helps Ann protect her music by doing all the legal and marketing work for her. So what does this music label or production house do? 

First and foremost, they check whether Ann’s music is unique or has been created before; afterwards, they file for copyrights over her music so that nobody else can copy her creation. Once the copyrights are granted, the production house can safely market Ann’s music. This situation implicates essential questions such as “what is a copyright?” Furthermore, “how do we perform a copyright search? “how to register a copyright,” and much more.

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Intellectual property is intangible property that refers to the creation of a legal entity. It has multiple types, such as patents and trademarks, and also includes copyrights. Copyright is a type of IP that specifically protects authorship, which means that if someone creates any artistic work that has not been created before, that work can be protected from being copied. Only the copyright owner has the power to reproduce the work and enjoys the ownership rights that any other property owner does, mainly possession, usufruct (usage), and disposal.

To successfully register a copyright for an artistic work, that work needs to be original and not a recreation of something that already exists. Therefore, before registering a copyright, it is pertinent to conduct a copyright search to check whether a work similar to the one you are registering already exists. To conduct a copyright search, the United States Copyright Office has an extensive and detailed copyright database with all formal filings of registered copyrights, dating as far back as 1870 and up to the present date. The copyright search records are updated with every catalogue that is released. 

Copyrights are filed with the United States Copyright Office; the filing process is fully mentioned on their website and provided in a step-by-step tutorial, but we shall also break it down here. To register copyrights online through a standard application, the first step is to create an online account on the United States Copyright Office’s website, also known as the “eCO” account. On the left side will be an option for registering a work; a group of photographs, newspapers, newsletters, or contributions to a periodical cannot be registered through a standard application.

The first part of the application form identifies the type of work being registered. There are six categories: literary works, performing arts, sound, visual arts, motion pictures, or serial issues (for magazines). The next steps include providing the information and the work, such as the title of the work being registered, whether the work is published or not, and all details related to that, the name(s) of the author(s), their details and contributions, information of those claiming the copyrights, and so on.

If the work is a recreation of a previous work that has reached its limitation period, then the registration number and details of the limitation are to be provided. Furthermore, the address for mailing the copyright certificate must also be provided. 

All other details being asked on the screen are also to be filled out in the application form, after which a fee is to be submitted as prescribed by the Copyright Office in the application. The service fee for the standard application is around $65.

A single application for a single work may also be submitted, provided that the claimant fulfils the criteria for the application; otherwise, the copyright office may reject the application for the claimant to apply using the standard application.

To conduct a copyright search, the United States Copyright Office provides a database of the copyright public records available here. Now, the copyright search provides a list of different options, including the official public catalogue, the copyright public records system pilot, the virtual card catalogue, the catalogue of copyright entries, the copyright historical records books, and the early copyright records collection. Your choice should depend on the year of registration that you want to look for.

An ordinary copyright search can be done by entering the official public catalogue and the title in the search bar. If you are not sure about the title of the copyright, but you know the name of the owner, then you may select “Name” in the “search by” options and then write the name of the company or owner; similarly, the keyword, document number, or registration number may also be used. 

When conducting a copyright search, it is important to follow a few key steps. Here are the guidelines you can use to search for copyrighted works in a systematic and effective manner.

Determine the Type of Work

Before beginning your search, the type of work you want to investigate should be identified. Copyright laws apply to various creative works, including books, music, films, photographs, software, and other artistic creations.

To conduct a copyright search, the US Copyright Office’s website should be accessed. The Copyright Office maintains a public catalogue of all copyrighted works, found at You will see a “Copyright Records” tab on the website; under this tab, click “Search the Catalog” to access the search tool.

Utilize the Search Tools

There are various ways to search for copyrighted works on the Copyright Office’s website. You can use keywords, the title, the author name, or the registration number to search for the specific work you’re interested in.

Examine the Search Results

After you input your search criteria, the Copyright Office website will provide you with a list of all the works that match your search query. The entry for each work will include details such as the name of the work, the registration number, the date of registration, and the name of the copyright owner.

Verify the Results

While the search results may provide you with the information you need, not all copyrighted works are registered with the Copyright Office, and not all works that appear in the search results are still protected by copyright. As a result, it is critical to double-check the information you find with other sources, such as the work’s author or publisher.

If you are unsure about the copyright status of a specific work or require legal guidance, it is best to consult an attorney specializing in copyright law. They will be able to provide you with the legal expertise and assistance you require to ensure that you are following the proper protocols and complying with copyright law.

A copyright search is used for various reasons, and the reason you use it is relevant to how you search for the copyright. 

Suppose an artist wants to check whether their song title is not copyrighted, so they search for their song name in the title. Just checking for the title of a work is sufficient that way. However, if someone is eager to know all the copyrights filed by a legal entity, they may search for their name.

Utilize Descriptive Keywords:

Using descriptive keywords can help you narrow your search and obtain more specific results. Choose keywords relevant to the type of copyrighted work you are searching for, such as the title, author, artist, or creator’s name. For instance, if you are searching for a novel, use keywords that include the title of the book, the author’s name, and the publication year.

Quotation Marks for Exact Phrases:

When looking for a specific phrase, using quotation marks can be a great strategy. Quote marks will ensure the search engine looks for that exact phrase, providing more precise results. For instance, if you are searching for “fair use” in copyright law, use quotation marks to find results that specifically mention that phrase.

Make Use of Advanced Search Options:

Most search engines have advanced search options that allow you to refine your search criteria. These advanced search options can help filter your results by date, language, location, and other parameters. Use the advanced search option to customize your search and make it more specific to your needs.

Consult Multiple Sources:

Copyrighted works can be found in various locations, such as copyright office websites, publisher websites, and legal databases. Consulting multiple sources can help you obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the copyrighted works you are searching for.

Reverse Image Search for Copyrighted Images:

If you are seeking information about copyrighted images, a reverse image search tool is an effective way to identify where an image appears online and who may hold the copyright. This approach can be particularly useful when trying to identify the owner of a particular image and obtain proper permissions or licensing for its use.

It is necessary to be aware of copyright laws when searching for copyrighted materials. Remember that copyright laws vary by country and region, and there are limitations to what you can use without permission or license. Always check the applicable copyright laws and guidelines before using or reproducing any copyrighted material.

The tedious use of the name of a legal entity, the title of a copyright, or the use of specific information is all it takes to efficiently navigate the copyright search.

Copyright searches are free since they are done on the database provided on the United States Corporate Office website and take only a few minutes to conduct.

The cost of a copyright search can vary depending on several factors, such as the scope of the search, the nature of the copyrighted work, and the service provider’s pricing.

If you conduct a copyright search using online databases or other free resources, the cost may be minimal or even free. However, this approach may not provide a comprehensive search or the most up-to-date information.

If you choose to use a professional copyright search service, the cost can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the type of search and the extent of the services provided.

For instance, if you are searching for the copyright to a book, the cost may be less than searching for the copyright to a film, which may require a more extensive search. The cost may also depend on the expertise required to perform the search, such as a search that requires a legal professional’s expertise or specialized knowledge in a particular field.

Though copyright search is an easy process, it is understandable that those who are not tech-savvy may run into some problems, which is why LegaMart provides quality legal counsellors willing to help their clients every step of the way. You can find your legal counsel here.


In conclusion, copyright laws serve as a vital safeguard for the creators of original works in the United States. These laws grant authors, artists, and other creators exclusive rights to control how their works are used, distributed, and monetized. They ensure that creators can benefit from their creations and encourage the creation of new works that enrich our culture and society.

The US Copyright Office, which is responsible for administering copyright law in the United States, plays a crucial role in protecting the rights of creators. It provides resources and guidance to help creators understand and navigate the complexities of copyright law, and it works to enforce copyright infringement and protect against piracy.

It is necessary for all individuals and businesses to respect the copyright laws in the United States and to obtain the necessary permissions and licenses before using copyrighted works. By doing so, we can support and encourage the creation of new works and ensure that the original creators are fairly compensated for their efforts.

Copyright laws are a vital aspect of the creative and cultural landscape in the United States, and it is our collective responsibility to protect and uphold these laws for the benefit of all creators and society as a whole.

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