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Copyright Control Number IS NOT a Copyright Registration

If you have used a publisher, your book was likely assigned a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) or Library of Congress Control Number (LCCNs). This is not a copyright registration.

Even if you have a Library of Congress Control Number, you still need a US Copyright Registration Number.

PCN and LCCNs are catalog numbers (think Dewey decimal system) and help with the categorization of books, but they do not establish or record rights. A Registration Number shows the books owners have recorded their books with the U.S. Copyright Office. A Registration Number is necessary to sue someone for copyright infringement, a PCN or LCCN will not help.

Man with binoculars looks between two piles of books.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Library of Congress Control Number (LCCNs) help categorize books in the Library of Congress and local libraries. The Preassigned Control Number (PCN) helps show the correct category of the books before they are published, once published it is a LCCN.

While the PCN and LCCN are the catalog numbers for the Library of Congress, the Copyright Application and Registration Numbers are the catalog numbers for the U.S. Copyright Office. While the Copyright Office and Library of Congress work together, they use different databases. An author who registers their book with the Copyright Office may get a LCCN in the Library of Congress of librarian decides to issue it. But the Library of Congress will never issue a Registration Number and it is up to the author to make sure their artistic work is protected.

Sometimes, a publisher will give a LCCN to their authors, who are under the impression it's their Registration number, only to find out years later their book was never registered. A LCCN just means the publisher has cataloged the book, but they haven't registered the author's work. Generally, indie or self-publishing authors will register their books themselves (preferably with the assistance of an attorney).


Definition List


Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) -

Numbering system to catalog records in the Library of Congress.

  • The LCCN numbering system used to stand for Library of Congress Card Number and has existed since the late 1800s.

  • The Library of Congress would sell copies of their card catalog to other libraries.

  • Instead of cards, the catalog not consists of permalinks with a stable URL.

  • The length of the LLCN depends, as the Library has added and decreased numbers from the format throughout the decades and people will sometimes publish truncated numbers. Sometimes they'll be written with a hyphen and sometimes not.

    • Examples: 75-425165 or 2004024730 or

  • The varied writing format makes it difficult to pinpoint what is a LCCN.

  • An LCCN is useful for librarians to pull the Library of Congress record from the Library's database.

  • Not every book has an LCCN and while searching by ISBN often brings up the book on online bookstores, the LCCN doesn't necessarily.

  • The LCCN is not useful for the average American but is useful for libraries.


International Standard Book Number (ISBN) -

Numbering system to catalog books developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

  • An ISBN is assigned to each separate edition and variation (except reprintings) of a publication.

    • Thus, an e-book, a paperback and a hardcover edition of the same book will each have a different ISBN.

  • The ISBN is ten digits long if assigned before 2007, and thirteen digits long if assigned on or after 1 January 2007. Some books from the 70s and 80s may be truncated because they drop the initial zeros.

  • The ISBN number is issued by the country's ISBN Agency. While countries like New Zealand and Brazil have incorporated the ISBN Agency in their version of a National Library, the U.S agency is a private company, R.R. Bowker.

    • This can be confusing to non-Americans, as they may assume our ISBN Agency is associated with the Library of Congress. Even Canada's ISBN Agency has government support, while the US does not.

  • An ISBN number can be "read" to figure out information about the publisher and other data.

  • The ISBN is useful to the average American, especially if they are trying to purchase or sell a specific edition of a book.

Consumers search for books to purchase and sell based on ISBNs, which are often listed on the outside and inside of a published books. While an LCCN is listed on the inside Copyright Notice page of a book, it's really rare that any consumer uses this number.


Library of Congress Classification (LCC) -

Classification system to catalog records in the Library of Congress.

  • The LCC classification system was developed in the late 1800s to replace the system developed by Thomas Jefferson which wasn't workable anymore. The Library of Congress librarians based it on other classification systems like the Dewey Decimal System.

  • Most libraries in the U.S. use the Dewey Decimal System, not the LCC.

  • While the Dewey Decimal System starts with 10 overarching categories (000, 100 to 900) and then inside each category, it is broken down further. The LCC system has 21 overarching categories (A to Z) and then inside each category, it is broken down further.

    • Examples: The Bible is in Dewey Decimal System under 220 while in the Library of Congress Classification System, the Bible is under BS. A book about the Roman Catholic Church would be in 282 in Dewey and BX800–4795 in LCC.

  • I don't have a degree in Library of Science, but I think the LCC system is outdated and shouldn't have been used in place of the Dewey Decimal System.

  • The Canadian National Library uses a version of LCC but have added a category for Canadian History (FC).

    • The First Nation Longhouse rejects using the LCC and uses their own system that doesn't come with 1800s biases.

  • The LCC is not useful for the average American or Canadian, but useful for librarians and private booksellers.

The acronym LCC is very similar to the LCCN, yet is useless to the average American. I understand it might be considered a waste of tax dollars to switch our current system, but the Dewey Decimal and ISBN systems are used by more people and are more efficient than the LCSH, LCC, LCCN system currently used by the Library of Congress.


Library of Congress Subjects (LCS) -

Classification system to catalog the contents of books in the Library of Congress.

  • Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is the headings for each class and that gets its own system.

    • Example: The Harry Potter series fits into the Subject Headings of Wizards and the sub-heading of Juvenile Fiction. If you are ever searching in your library system for other books about wizards, the classification may come from the Library of Congress or may have been entered by another party.

  • Library of Congress subjects get broken into specifics, and often 3 to 5 are listed for each book.

  • Consumers are used to seeing subjects as being searchable terms in boolean searches in the databases of booksellers and librarians.

By having the Library of Congress and publishers work out the correct classification and subject headings, this decreases the burden on companies, search engines, and libraries in trying to classify books. It would be impossible for every small town librarian to read every book and this system helps speed up the process.

Ultimately, I don't think we can ditch the LCC and LCCN system because the LCS system is very useful for libraries and booksellers. We've built Amazon Books, Google Books, OneDrive, Hoopla, etc, all on this system in establishing what books are related.

However, the system is arbitrary. For instance, "Washington" is considered important enough to be one of the four subjects of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer instead of "love triangles" or "werewolves" which were argurably bigger parts of the story. Publishers can work with the Library of Congress librarians or pay for experts to help pick the correct LCCN and LCS.

  • Kate Note: If you're an author concerned about your book being misclassified, make it clear in your publishing contract you want to be a part of this process. This was a bigger issue in the early 2000s, but LGBTQ+ literature often gets misclassified.


Preassigned Control Number (PCN) -

Numbering system to catalog records that are going to get assigned a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) once published.

  • The LCCN is assigned to a published book. So a published who knows they are going to publish a book can get a LCCN in advance via the PCN system.

Why would a publisher want a LCCN (and thus sign up to get a PCN)?

  • A LCCN (and PCN) is supposed to help libraries and book dealers as it "facilitates access to the bibliographic record for that book and thereby expedites book processing by libraries and book dealers who obtain copies of the book."

How does one get a PCN?

  • Once a publisher joins the program they then just have to mail a physical copy of each book, then it will get assigned the PCN for free. So the cost is cost of mailing something to Washington, D.C.

    • Kate Note: You also have to make a deposit when you apply for a copyright registration. This can be a high burden for self-publishers to give 2 free books to the U.S. government and should be calculated in the cost of the process.

  • If a copyright is registered with the Copyright Office, then the deposit gets sent over to the Library of Congress. If the librarians deem the book "worthy" they will then keep it and catalog it, thus assigning a LCCN.

    • While this seems harsh, there just isn't enough space and money to keep every book ever published (but I wish there was!).


Copyright Registration Number

After applying and successfully registering the rights to an artistic work, a number is assigned.

  • A Copyright Registration Number can vary in appearance.

    • Example of an unpublished work: VAu 123-456

    • Examples of a published work: TX 1-234-567 or SR 123-456

  • While the page in a book that lists the bibliographic and author information is called the "Copyright Notice" or "Copyright Page" the actual copyright number is rarely listed.

    • Usually the book is published before the number is published.

  • A Copyright Registration Number is almost always necessary to bring a lawsuit.

    • Kate Note: I don't want to say always as there's been a few court cases addressing this, but in practice, it's always.


Case Study:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


Below is a screenshot of the "Copyright" page from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Notice that while the ISBN, LCC, LCCN, and LCS are all listed, the Copyright Number is not listed.

Below is a screenshot of the U.S. Copyright Office's listing of Twilight and the Registration Number is TX006239298. Which is not published in the literary work.


Conclusion: The Library of Congress issues their own number for cataloging books and the U.S. Copyright Office issues their own number for cataloging registered copyrights. Just because you have one, doesn't mean you have the other.

If you're an author, make sure your publisher is handling both the LCCN and Copyright Registration process or handle it yourself (preferably via an attorney 😊).


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