Recordation of Security Interests in Intellectual Property

Recordation of Security Interests in Intellectual Property 

Statement of Marybeth Peters
The Register of Copyrights
before the
Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property
Committee on the Judiciary

United States House of Representatives
106th Congress, 1st Session

June 24, 1999

Recordation of Security Interests in Intellectual Property


Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to testify today on a proposal of the American Bar Association Joint Task Force on Security Interests in Intellectual Property labeled the “Federal Intellectual Property Security Act.” While it is widely known that the Copyright Office has registered copyright claims since 1870, it is less commonly known that this Office has also recorded transfers of copyrighted materials from that date. Today, transfers of huge catalogs or libraries of copyrighted works occur frequently. Recordation of transfers – including security interests – is one of the core functions of the Copyright Office.

Our testimony today is based upon our expertise and experience in the administration of copyright law. We do not profess to be experts in the law or business of secured transactions. Nor would we presume to speak to the merits of the ABA proposal insofar as it may address needed reforms in the patent and trademark laws. In preparing for this hearing, we have consulted with representatives of various segments of the copyright community who have a stake in the system of recordation of transfers of interests in copyrights. We also recognize that lending institutions have an interest in a system that reliably and efficiently provides constructive notice of interests in copyrights, including security interests. We hope that today’s hearing will represent the beginning of a dialog between those who believe that the framework of the current system is fundamentally sound – a view that we believe is shared by most copyright owners – and those who perceive a need for a system that better accommodates the requirements of their lending practices.

As I have suggested, it is the Copyright Office’s understanding that some businesses producing copyrighted property and many financial institutions may support the ABA proposal. However, the Copyright Office also believes that the current recordation system, which requires the submission of actual documents and makes them part of the public record, is preferred by most copyright owners. Additionally, many prefer that constructive notice be limited to documents that specifically identify works and support the requirement that the work identified in the document be registered. I believe these are real strengths of the current system.

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