Revolutionary Rosanna featured image of cover art part and copyright symbol

What is the “Publication Date” for Registering a work with the Library of Congress?

This article is copyrighted (c) to Christina Roberts. All rights reserved.

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I very recently went through a troublesome process trying to get the paperback version of Revolutionary Rosanna: Resolution registered with the Library of Congress (LOC). The entire process took a little over 6 months from the date I had filed the claim to get it resolved to my satisfaction. After waiting over 3 months for the Library of Congress to “find it” (my claim), and informing me that they couldn’t, they suggested I upload a PDF version of the book for them to register. When I did so, they asked me what the publication date was and if I had published the book anywhere before. Well, I had put the book up online on FictionPress.com a few years ago, but had long since removed it before registering it with the LOC.

As I wanted people to know I had written the book some time ago and that it had been put up online, I had listed “serialized online” in my copyright page. I had also then listed the original paperback publication date and revision paperback publication date. Because I did that, I had to deal with weeks of back and forth via email (and some calls) with the LOC to clear it up.

Here’s the just of why listing all that posting information was confusing for the Library of Congress:

  1. The Library of Congress will consider any place, in any format, where all or part of the book has been posted or put up as “published”. They asked me for the original serialization dates and publisher information. I had to clarify that I “did not consider” the book to have been “published” online when I had posted it on FictionPress.com.
  2. They will select the latest publication information or date of “publication” or public posting (access) listed for your book. So, in my case, I included an original paperback publication date and latest paperback edition date. Therefore, they wanted to automatically select the latest paperback listing date.

Before I go further, a note about U.S. Copyright Law and the Library of Congress

In the United States, any unique work (artwork, book, film, sculpture, etc) that a person makes is immediately their protected, copyrighted work. Another person cannot come along and claim it as theirs. You may have trouble proving you are the author or creator of the work, however, without proper proof of creation or authorship, including possibly dates, if possible, of creation or publication. But, overall, your unique work is completely yours and you do not have to register it with the Library of Congress to make it copyrighted.

So why register the work then?

Registering your work with the Library of Congress does a few things for you:

  1. Adds a significant layer of “protection” and validation that you are the creator or author of the work.
  2. Registering with the Library of Congress also adds protection and validity if you need to defend your right to the work in court against a person claiming authorship or creation of the work. Specifically to suing in court, you could also allegedly win more compensation for your case with a LOC code registered to you and attributed to the work.
  3. It protects your work further in overseas cases. There are times when people literally search online through the Library of Congress just to find if your work is included there. If it’s not, they may be more apt to try to steal and plagiarize it. The U.S. Copyright system is less able to protect you from such international piracy. However, with a valid code, and if you find someone outside the country that’s claiming right to your work, you can sue them easier to glean retribution. Without the code, that process may be harder.
  4. And, yes, it adds quite a bit of professionalism and snobbery to include Library of Congress information with your work.

Let’s break it down: Posting Online as “Publishing”

It makes sense, actually, in retrospect, that posting Revolutionary Rosanna: Resolution online in chapters can equate to having it published. However, if you’re like me, you don’t consider online posting the same as publishing. Our definition is still “old school”. We think some form of official publication are things like official magazines, e-zines, as a published book or e-book, or in some other high-quality, official medium where an editor, publisher, and staff review the work.

I thought it was no problem to put it up online, then remove it when I was ready to officially self-publish the book. I had created the work so could do with it as I wanted; and since I’d removed it, it was as good as if it were never “published” anywhere. Also, the Library of Congress would never have known about it being posted on FictionPress.com if I hadn’t included that information in my copyright page.

Apparently, my view about publication is not the same for the Library of Congress. They will consider any place online you have put up a part, or the whole, of your work to be “published”. It makes sense, actually, because many people may want to defend their work if it’s infringed upon by saying, “Hey! I posted that online on X date — which was before YOU did! This is MY WORK!”

When the Library of Congress saw my “serialized online” message on my copyright page, they proceeded to ask me

  1. Where did you serialize it online?
  2. When? Include all publication dates of each piece separately
  3. Include information for the publisher

Of course, I didn’t have such information, or it didn’t apply, as it was FictionPress.com. I also wasn’t about to split up my multi-chapter book into individual pieces, as it was “one work”. And I wasn’t about to spend $30/per chapter to register each piace with the LOC. Ridiculous!

So, if you find this is messing up your ability to copyright your work officially and is causing confusion like mine did, you can clear it up by telling the Library of Congress that you don’t consider the work online in that place (FictionPress.com) or on those dates to be “published”. The Library of Congress with honor and accept that condition legally if you write them an email stating it as such. However, be warned, that if you do this, only your officially-copyrighted publication date will be accepted for any and all future potential plagiarism and copyright infringement cases. For instance, though I originally posted the work on FictionPress.com in 2013, I told the Library of Congress I would toss that date aside. Therefore, if someone plagiarized my work at that date, or even after, but before the officially registered date (2014), their infringement may count as the original publication date and mine may not.

Now don’t fool yourself: Natural U.S. copyright law states that anything you originally created that is unique is automatically your property. The Library of Congress simply adds a layer of protection to your works. However, this legality of effective date is so important, as it will impact your defense in court in relation to your authority of the publication date.

Editions Versus the Respected Publication Date

The second issue I ran into was that I had self-published Revolutionary Rosanna: Resolution as “edition one” in 2014. But since then, I had lost my cover art file and had copy-edited the book enough after that I wanted to publish it again as “edition two”. But I wanted people to know there had been an edition one in order to (in my mind) further protect my copyright claim to the piece.

The Library of Congress didn’t see it this way. In fact, the 2 dates confused them. They addressed it by telling me I needed to, basically, choose one date, and that the latest publication date was the date they were supposed to honor, unless I stated otherwise.

So, when you’re working on your book or whatever the work may be, it may be useful for you to keep in mind that editions may not suffice to cover a previous date you want as the copyright date. Therefore, I agreed to the second edition date and removed the serialized information and edition one information out of my copyright page.

Finally Getting the Work Registered

After all that was accomplished, I sent the LOC my updated PDF of the paperback book. They let me know it was accepted and that I’d be receiving my registration code in 2 – 3 weeks. When I did receive the code in less than a week after, I accordingly updated my copyright page to include it and then I re-published the work.

The Bottom Line in Summary

What’s the point of all this? Well, I hope that what I went through will help you avoid the mistakes I made. From this process, I learned the following:

  1. DO NOT post or publicly distribute your pre-published work in ANY FORM. Keep your work completely private. If you do wish to do this, register for a pre-publication LOC code. Yes, such a thing exists.
  2. In order to register the work with the Library of Congress, when you go to publish, get an ISBN code. Many self-publishing websites provide an ISBN for free. You don’t need an ISBN code to publish the work, but if you want to list it on national markets, and want the Library of Congress to respect the work, you need an ISBN code.
  3. Revise your copyrights page with the ISBN code first. Then publish the work.
  4. Depending on your publisher, don’t mark the book to go to national markets before you have your Library of Congress Code. That way, there will be no potential serialization issues, edition confusion, original publication date considerations, etc, having to alter your accepted date and risk wondering if someone will try to plagiarize the work before the official publication date.
  5. Order TWO proof copies (if a book). The Library of Congress states they want TWO copies. They may accept it with one, but two is better.
  6. IMMEDIATELY when you receive your copies, check them. If you approve, mark them as approved on your self-publisher’s website (like Lulu.com).
  7. ON THAT DAY, IMMEDIATELY, go to the Library of Congress website, fill out their forms, pay the $30, and download your printing instructions.
  8. Mail BOTH copies of your work as soon as you’re able.
  9. Any online LOC case that hasn’t been updated (responded to) from 45 days of the filing date will automatically close. Keep in touch at least via email every week or so to check on the status of your claim. They won’t close your claim that way.
  10. If the Library of Congress states they cannot find your book after some absurdly long period of time, do not offer to send them 2 more copies. Instead, offer to upload a PDF version and make sure to clarify that it is for the medium of copies you sent. NOT for an e-book copy (unless that is your format).
  11. When you finally receive your Library of Congress code, add it to your copyright page.
  12. THEN revise your book via your self-publisher’s website. You will be required to order another proof.
  13. This time, order only 1 proof. When it arrives, and is good to go, mark it as approved on their website.
  14. Set all the markets and prices you want to sell your book for and click OKAY. It may be 4 – 6 weeks for your book to show up on all the sites you specified, but it’s well worth the wait!

In this way, no one will have had access to your work before it was officially online. Now, if you want to post your work online in some form (partial or complete), you just need to be very aware doing so many cause complications when you want to file it to get a Library of Congress code. The Library of Congress has a specific type of code you can purchase for “unpublished works”, which you may consider the book to be if it’s online; but remember that they may consider it published, since it was put up where the public could read it.

And no matter how you may be tempted to put your work up because you can’t wait, I would advise you try your hardest to be patient. After your work is officially published, you’ll be safe to then post a few chapters or parts of it online wherever you like. Print it out, post quotes, etc! You will be able to point back to your book source page (be it the Amazon page or a promo page you made) and not worry about it not being protected.

Well, I hope this article helped! Please let me know what you think.

The Communication with the Library of Congress

Here is the pertinent communication exchanged with the Library of Congress. I’m posting it here in hopes it may help prevent others from going through what I did.


2018/2/12:

Your application and payment for the work Revolutionary Rosanna: Resolution were submitted on 11/13/2017. We are unable to process your claim because we did not receive the required copy(ies) of the work being registered.

2018/2/13 Me:

Hi, I just got off the phone with one of your support specialists. She said my application is probably pending because your system “hasn’t logged the copies yet”. I sent in the copy of my book mere days after 11/13 when my case was opened. If I can receive some form of confirmation about this, I’d appreciate it, though the specialist said they don’t send any notification. If what she said isn’t the case, please inform me of how I can get my application done to receive my copyright certificate. Thanks.

2018/2/13:

Hello Ms. Roberts, Please call PIO tomorrow xxx-xxx-xxxx.

2018/2/14 Me:

Not able to get through. Held and held and lines were always busy.

2018/2/14:

Hello, Your case number x-xxxxxxxxxx states no uploads were made. What browser did you use? Please login to your account and make the upload again but use Firefox or Internet explorer.

2018/2/14 Me:

I used Firefox. I didn’t upload any documents, because I followed the instructions and mailed a hard, physical copy of the work only 2 or 3 days after 11/13 when my case was open. Since I mailed a copy, do I still need to upload a digital copy? The instructions said to do 1 or the other. How come my physical copy hasn’t been included in the system yet? It was mailed mid November.

2018/2/14:

Greetings, I cannot say I only handle the technical issues. To find out if your work has been delivered you need to call PIO. Only they can tell you if it has arrived or not. There [sic] number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.

2018/2/20:

There is a delay in the processing of incoming material during that time. Please give us a call or email the Copyright Office within 2-3 weeks to check again.

2018/3/8 Me:

Hello, I just logged in to check the status of my pending application. It’s still showing upload status not complete. I called some weeks ago and the lady said that the book was somewhere, just not yet entered, and she was going to expedite my case. Please update me. I’m not going to upload a file, as I physically mailed my book weeks ago. Thank you.

2018/3/8:

Your inquiry has been forwarded to the appropriate unit for review. You should expect a response within 5-7 business days regarding an update.

2018/3/26 Me:

Hello, I haven’t heard anything back and it’s been much longer than 7 business days. Please update me on the status of my pending application below. Thanks.

2018/3/26:

Dear Christina Roberts, Your request has been forwarded to the Out-Processing section for a review. Please allow up to 10 business days for a reply.

2018/4/18:

After reviewing the case, it appears you received a call 3/28/18. This email is being forwarded to the appropriate department. Please monitor your inbox in case our office writes you about the claim.

2018/5/7

Dear Ms. Roberts: I am working on the copyright application you submitted. I thank you for your patience as we attempt to locate the copy of your work. Unfortunately, we have been unable to do so. Do you have a digital version of the work? If so, please attach the file(s) to your reply email and I will upload them to the claim. If you prefer to send a hard copy version, please let me know in your reply and I will give you instructions for submitting it.

Please note that if we do not receive a response to this message within 45 days, we will close this case without processing your registration or notifying you further, and forward your deposit copy(ies) under the provisions of the current copyright law. The fee is not refundable. If you re-apply for registration after the case is closed, you must send a new application, copy and fee. The effective date of registration will be based on the new submission.

2018/5/10 Me:

Hi — I do have a digital file. What format do you need? I can send .docx, .pdf, .epub — some other format. Please instruct. Thank you.

2018/5/11:

Hi Ms. Roberts, A .docx or .pdf would be great. Whichever you choose, please make sure we can see any artwork that is included in the book. If attaching to your reply email is too large to send, you can email it to me directly at —-@loc.gov.

2018/5/11 Me:

I’ve attached a PDF. It doesn’t have the front cover art. Do you need the file modified to include the cover art?

2018/5/11:

Thank you. Can you submit the cover art in a separate file?

2018/5/11 Me:

It’s attached: front and back. Is this good?

2018/5/11:

THIS IS AN AUTOMATED EMAIL. PLEASE DO NOT REPLY.

Thank you for submitting your registration claim using the Electronic Copyright Office (ECO) System.

The following files were successfully uploaded for service request 1-6002955971

File Name :Revolutionary Rosanna Resolution Book 1.pdf
File Size :1936 KB
Date/Time :5/11/2018 11:08:16 AM

File Name :Revolutionary Rosanna Resolution Book 1 Paperback Cover.pdf
File Size :651 KB
Date/Time :5/11/2018 11:08:16 AM

[THREAD ID: 1-30Q9PHT]

United States Copyright Office

2018/5/11:

Thank you very much, Ms. Roberts. I’ve uploaded the book and cover to the claim. I see that this is the second edition of the paperback version of your work. It looks like the ebook version was first published in 2013 and the paperback version in 2013.

Works can be registered in the form in which they are first published. The copyright registration in later editions extends only to the new material that has been revised or added since the previous publication. Therefore, registering this 2017 edition of the book will only cover any new and revised text or artwork that has been added or changed since the previous publication.

In your reply, please let me know what new material was added or revised since the previous publication, such as “new and revised text” or “new artwork.” Please note that the cover art is not copyrightable. Copyright law does not protect common shapes and variations of color. The cover art is made up of stars, bars, and blocks of color. We cannot register the cover art. Please let me know if you have any questions.

2018/5/11 Me:

Hi there — there was no variation of the text, internal artwork, or other internal elements in the work. I had only altered the paper size. This work was (current and previous edition) also not previously registered with the copyright office. I had previously self-published it with the different paper size, but did not register it with the copyright office. That previous version is not published any more. I would not be able to provide the previous edition. I did not keep those files, or the print book of that size. I understand about the cover art.

Is this all you need? I’m also wondering, I wanted the paperback version registered. This is not for the ebook version. I know both versions are considered separate items and would need to be registered as such. The PDF is of the print/paperback version, but since it’s an electronic file, does the copyright office see it as a different item? I hope not.

2018/5/17:

Thanks so much for the information. Regarding the 2013 and 2014 publications, the copyright page indicates they were “serialized online.” Can you tell me more about how it was first published? Was it published as a single work online? Or was it broken up into smaller segments?

2018/5/17 Me:

Broken up into chapter pieces on a fiction website. A few years ago, I took the book off everywhere. There is no place online or offline where  people can access to read it except in my paperback and e-book formats now.

2018/5/18:

Thank you. Works must be registered in the form in which they were first published. Thus, the book must be registered in its serialized form, with the original publication dates. So, unfortunately, we cannot register the 2017 reprint of the book in this format. The chapters should be registered in the pieces in which they were published. You can provide the chapter pieces in a pdf or Microsoft word file. Please also provide the year of completion and publication date for the first piece. I can register one of the pieces on this application. The others must be submitted on their own applications.

2018/5/18 Me:

I do not remember the exact dates each piece was posted online on fictionpress.com. It is impossible for me to provide that information. I could only provide the year I had posted it online, which is listed in the pdf copyrights page that you have.

Fictionpress is not a publication site, magazine, or any other type of official publication entity. It is a website where a person may freely post their work in their account, without having to go through any publication or review process, for others to read, and then remove as they like. It’s nothing more official than self posting on a web forum. If this is considered “publication”, then that just seems in my mind to show that the copyright system is outdated and needs review and revision. I understand you have no say in that.

As this is my work that I had posted online and then of my own complete ownership and right, removed the story from fictionpress, is there really no way for me to get the finished paperback registered? The copyright system seems very confusing and overbearing if there is no way. It also seems outrageous that I would need to register each separate chapter as an independent piece (and spend money therefore for each piece), as each chapter is not it’s own standalone piece, but part of the book as a unified whole.

2018/5/18:

Thanks for your message, Ms. Roberts. We register based on the date of first publication because that is the date your work is published, sent out into the world, without any control over further distribution. It is from that date that your work could be infringed. It may be that you don’t consider it to have been published online in 2013. Whether or not a work is published is completely up to the applicant. We can’t say one way or the other, particular in the online environment, if a work is published or not. We have a document about online works which could help clarify the issue: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ66.pdf

IF the book was NOT published online in 2013, please let me know. And, then, please let me know which you would consider to be the first date of publication – perhaps the paperback edition in August 2014? If August 2014 was the first time it was published, all I need from you is that date (the copyright page says August 28, 2014) and then we can complete the registration as is.

I’m sorry the process is so confusing. I promise we have good reasons for asking so many questions. The registration is a legal document meant to capture the facts about publication history and so, for that reason, we have to be as accurate as possible. (The registration record serves as evidence in a court of law.) Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

2018/5/18 Me:

Yes, I’d like to legally go with the official paperback date. Not the online date. I understand what the infringement and legal ramifications may mean by altering my recognized publication date. I will revise the copyright page publication date and resend you the entire work. I will be able to do so later today or tomorrow, as I’m at work. Thank you for working with me on this. I appreciate it.

2018/5/29:

Hi Ms. Roberts, Thank you for your message and I apologize for the delay in mine. If I accept this new version of the book, the effective date of your registration will change. The registration is effective as of the date we receive the copy of the work being registered. If I accept this new version, the effective date will be the date you sent it to me.

Because the online version was unpublished, we can accept and register the paperback version. The copyright page indicated that it was first published on August 28, 2014. It seems like the 2017 “publication” was merely a reprint of the 2014 version. If so, we can accept this 2017 version as a substitute for the 2014 version. Therefore, we can issue a registration for the book as it was published on August 28, 2014 without any other changes to the application.

Do I have your permission to do that? I know the later email you sent me said you wanted to register the 2017 version, but we have to capture the facts of publication. If the book was published in 2014, we have to register it that way.

2018/5/29 Me:

Thanks for getting back to me Melissa. Everything you said is good. I understand and give permission for the book to be registered in the August 28 2014. You are correct that the later print was just a reprint to fix no or typographical errors. Please proceed. Thank you!

2018/5/29:

THIS IS AN AUTOMATED EMAIL. PLEASE DO NOT REPLY.

Thank you for submitting your registration claim using the Electronic Copyright Office (ECO) System.

The following files were successfully uploaded for service request 1-6002955971

File Name :Revolutionary Rosanna Resolution Book 1.pdf
File Size :1936 KB
Date/Time :5/29/2018 3:24:44 PM

[THREAD ID: 1-31MX3JG]

United States Copyright Office

2018/5/30:

Thank you, Ms. Roberts. The registration is complete. You should receive the Certificate of Registration by mail in 2-3 weeks.

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