Since the application for registration requires the deposit to be the “best edition” of a work, what kind of deposit does the Copyright Office recommend for an online-only publication?
The “best edition” of a work is the edition, published in the United States at any time before the date of deposit, that the Library of Congress determines to be most suitable for its purposes” (emphasis added). 17 U.S.C § 101.
Many people are confused by this term and believe that they must send whatever the Library of Congress prefers. However, this statutory definition only applies to works that were published within the United States in multiple “editions” or versions prior to the date of submission of the application.
If the work was published within the United States in multiple formats, and if one or more of those formats are listed in the Library of Congress’s “Best Edition Statement,” the applicant generally should submit two complete copies of the best edition. Specifically, if the work was published in one of the formats listed in the Best Edition Statement, the applicant should submit the work in that format. If the work was published in two or more of the formats listed in the Best Edition Statement, the applicant should submit the work in the format that is listed first. Moreover, the statute authorizes the Register of Copyrights to allow different deposits for certain published works by regulation.
If a work, such as a photograph, is unpublished, there is no best edition requirement and any form of deposit that provides “a complete copy” is acceptable. For example, a PDF file containing all of the images in a size that allows them to be viewed adequately would be acceptable.
If a photograph is only published in electronic form (e.g., distributed only online), there is no best edition requirement and virtually any complete copy would satisfy the deposit requirement. The Office strongly encourages applicants to upload a digital file through the electronic registration system, rather than submitting a physical copy of the work.The individual files may be uploaded in any of the following formats: JPEG, GIF, TIFF, or PCD. Alternatively, the digital files could be placed on a flash drive, CD-ROM (including CD-RWs) or DVD-ROMs. In both cases, ZIP files compressing these files together or PDF package of those files would be acceptable.
If the photographs are published in physical form, generally, the highest quality of that photograph that was distributed to the public should be sent as the deposit following the regulatory list of preferences in 37 CFR § 202.20 and Appendix A to Part 202.
In addition, the following types of works are not subject to the best edition requirement:
Works published in a single format. If the work was published within the United States in a single format, the applicant may submit the work in that format. There is no need to create another copy of the work in a different format that the Library may prefer. For instance, if a book was published solely in paperback, the applicant may submit the paperback, even if the Library may prefer to receive a hardback.
Works published in multiple formats that are not listed in the Best Edition Statement. What if the work was published within the United States in multiple formats, but none of those formats are listed in the Library of Congress’s “Best Edition Statement”? In such cases, there is no need to create another copy of the work in a format that the Library may prefer. For example, if a motion picture was published as a digital cinema package (“DCP”) and on DVDs, the applicant may submit the DVD, even if the Library may prefer to receive a 70mm print.
Works published solely in a foreign country. If the work has been published solely in a foreign country, and has not been published in the United States, the applicant may submit one complete copy of the published work.
Rob Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practices at the U.S. Copyright Office