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Copyright Office Launches Online Database of Review Board Decisions

The following is a guest post by Abioye Mosheim, attorney advisor, Office of General Counsel.

Today, the Office is pleased to announce the launch of an online database of recent decisions (April 2016 to present) made by the Copyright Office Review Board. The Office will update the database as new decisions are issued. The Review Board makes final determinations on second appeals regarding decisions to refuse copyright registration. Types of works that fall under the Board’s review range from music, jewelry design, computer programs, and more.

screen shot of Review Board Letters webpage

Review Board Letters

Any time an application is refused registration, an applicant has two opportunities to appeal that refusal: first within the Office’s Registration Program (referred to as a first request for reconsideration), and, if the registration is still refused, then with the Review Board (referred to as a second request for reconsideration). Established by regulation in 1995  the Review Board is made up of three members, including the Register of Copyrights and the Copyright Office’s general counsel, or their respective designees, and a third appointee named by the Register.

After review of the entire case file, including the refused application, correspondence with the Registration Program, the applicant’s requests for reconsideration, and any further correspondence with the Board itself, the Board either affirms or reverses the refusal. If the Review Board reverses the refusal, it notifies the applicant in writing of the decision, and the work will be registered  If the Review Board affirms the refusal, it issues an opinion, in letter format, explaining the reasons for refusal.

The Review Board is the final step in the Copyright Office’s administrative appeals process, and decisions by the Review Board are subject to court challenge under the Administrative Procedure Act. Although the Office’s refusal to register a claim will not keep an applicant from filing an infringement suit, applicants gain certain legal benefits from obtaining copyright registration.

The Review Board database is searchable and includes an index that categorizes decisions for ease of reference. This database will be a great asset to copyright registration applicants and practitioners by providing a better understanding of how the Copyright Office determines if a work satisfies the legal and formal requirements for copyright registration.