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Conducting a Copyright Search

The United States Copyright Office has a public catalog available online for works registered after 1978. A person interested in performing a copyright search can go to www.copyright.gov/records to perform the search.  A search may be conducted by the Title, Name, Keyword, Registration Number, Document number, and Command Keyword.

When a Title search is performed, an individual can type the entire title or the first few words of the title, starting with the first word. Articles should also be omitted from the search (e.g., A, An, The, etc.)

When searching for names, the individual should type the last name, then first name if the name is a personal name. If the name is corporate, then the entire name should be entered if possible and in alphabetical order if searching more than one company. If the copyright searcher needs the name of a claimant, there is an alternative called “Other Search Options.” There the searcher should select “Name: Claimant (KLCN)” and insert the relevant name. For the names of documents, the searcher should go again to “Other Search Options” and select either “Docs: Party1 Statement (K291),” “Docs: Party2 (K292),” or “Docs: Party1/2 (KPTY)” from the search box and enter the relevant name.

The Keyword search option searches for specific word(s) located anywhere in the record and retrieves records with at least one of the search words. If the searcher uses “+” before the search term, this signifies that the following word must appear in every record retrieved. If the searcher uses “!” before a search term, this signifies that the following word must not appear in any record retrieved. If the searcher uses “?” after a term, words beginning with the specified term and ending with additional letters will be found. For example, listing a term as “art?” will retrieve a search consisting of “arts” and “artist.” Finally, surrounding terms with quotations as such “Copyright: For Dummies” will search for that exact phrase.

When searching by registration number, the searcher must ensure that the number is two letters followed by 10 digits or three letters followed by nine digits, and should omit hyphens. For example, a search for “ABC-123-456” or “XY-543-210” should be typed as “ABC000123456” and “XY0000543210” respectively.

If searching by document number, the searcher should type the letter “v” then four digits, then the letter “p” or “d” followed by three digits. For example, “V1234 P56” should be typed as “V1234P56”.


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