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Obtaining Copies of Moving Image Materials

Obtain Copies of Film and Video

As an archive, we are primarily concerned with preserving our film and video holdings and making them available for research on our own premises. The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division sells copies of moving images from its collection, but only if copyright, preservation, or donor restrictions allow.

Most of our moving image collection consists of complete productions protected by copyright. Researchers may view copyrighted works at the Library, but the copyright owner is usually the appropriate source for obtaining duplicate footage.

We do not maintain a list of copyright-free material.  Films made prior to January 1, 1923, are in the public domain and may be duplicated except where there may be donor restrictions by terms of an instrument of gift. While many (or even most) films published after January 1, 1923, are still protected by copyright, this is not always the case.  Therefore, a search of the ownership records maintained by the Library’s Copyright Office may be necessary to determine an individual work’s copyright status.  More information can be found in Copyright Office Circular 22, How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work.

General Guidelines for Requests to Copy Moving Images

Requests for duplication begin with the Moving Image Section reference staff (, who gather basic information about the order, such as titles requested, format desired, collection restrictions (if any), and whether or not a copyright search is required. From there, the order goes to the Public Services Office for pricing and fulfillment.

Some general guidelines to bear in mind:

Patrons requesting copies of moving images whose copyright status is uncertain will need to have a copyright search performed; reference staff can provide guidance on how this may be arranged. It is important that a requestor ask for an assignment search and/or a search for the current copyright holder. A copy of the search report indicating "no copyright registration found" or "no renewal found" must be filed with the Public Services Office before an order can be processed. Where a copyright owner is known, written permission will be necessary before a collection item can be copied. If the material the customer wishes to obtain is unidentified (release title and production credits are unknown), it may be possible to order a copy, but it will be the customer's responsibility to address any copyright issues that might arise as a result of its reuse.

  • Where motion pictures are concerned, the requestor should give careful consideration to the possible existence of underlying rights (e.g., a film based on a previously copyrighted book or play, or a film that might include a copyrighted work such as a song or a play).
  • In addition to the copyright, many donors place restrictions on the use of the materials they give to the Library. Reference staff can provide this information. Where such conditions exist, written permission will be required.
  • Users requesting access to unpreserved nitrate film must be prepared to meet all costs involved in the making of preservation masters for the Library in order to obtain the copies they are requesting.
  • Duplication orders will be for an entire reel or tape. No sections of a reel or tape can be ordered.
  • Cost estimates are provided by the Public Services Office as quickly as possible, although one can get a ballpark sense of the cost from the Rates page. However, lengthy orders require five to seven working days for evaluation and charges.
  • Users will be required to sign a Request to Copy Film and Videotape in LC Collections form stating the conditions governing duplication of the collections before an order can be processed.
  • All orders must be prepaid by credit card, check, or money order. We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover. Checks should be made out to LIBRARY OF CONGRESS - M/B/RS DIVISION. International orders require payment in U.S. dollars drawn from a U.S. bank or an International Money Order in U.S. dollars. Purchase Orders will only be accepted from universities or federal agencies. Please allow approximately 6 to 8 weeks for completion of a film order.

Written requests for duplication may be mailed to:

Library of Congress
Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division
Motion Picture and Television Reference Desk
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20540-4690

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  June 13, 2012
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