Individuals can check who owns a copyright by conducting a search through the records of the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright registrations from 1870 through 1977 are available for physical search at the U.S. Copyright Office, while copyright records from 1978 to the present are searchable through the online records catalog.
Visitors may access the approximately 45 million cards in the physical copyright card catalog for records from 1870 through 1977 at the Copyright Public Records Reading Room in the Library of Congress. The catalog cards contain the history of the copyrighted work, including the name of the work, the author, the copyright claimant, the date of publication and the registration number. A list of registered works from 1891 through 1978 called the Catalog of Copyright Entries is available in print at the Copyright Office and on microfiche in many U.S. libraries, although the registration information is sometimes not as complete as on the catalog cards. Copyright Office staff conduct a manual search of copyright records for an hourly fee upon request.
All copyright records from 1978 to the present are available in the online catalog, which the public can access freely by going to the main page of Copyright.gov and clicking Search Records in the photo toolbar at the top of the page. Records are searchable by title, author or publisher, registration number, document number and keywords. However, even if works do not appear in the registry, they are copyright protected by law as soon as authors create them.