Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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1008.4 Identifying the Work(s) That May Be Included in the Claim


1008.4 Identifying the Work(s) That May Be Included in the Claim


To register a claim with the U.S. Copyright Office the applicant should begin by identifying the work(s) of authorship that will be included in the claim. This is especially critical for websites, because they typically contain a number of discrete works of authorship. Each work may present unique registration issues that the applicant may need to consider when preparing the application and the deposit material.


For example, if the website contains a number of works that are owned by different parties, it may be necessary to submit a separate application for each work. Separate applications may be necessary if the applicant determines that the works have been published and that each work was published on a different date. Likewise, separate applications may be necessary if the applicant intends to register multiple versions of the same work and if the applicant determines that the versions were published on successive dates. Indeed, every work that is added to a website potentially may qualify as a derivative work or a new contribution to a collective work. In such cases, a separate application and separate publication date may be required for each date that new content was uploaded to the website and authorized for distribution to the public.


By contrast, if the website qualifies as a collective work it may be possible to register the entire site with one application, provided that the claimant owns the copyright in the site as a whole. It also may be possible to register the entire site together with the component works contained therein if the claimant is the author of or owns the copyright in those works. However, it is important to note that a website claimed as a collective work will only be eligible for one award of statutory damages no matter how many discrete works within the website may be infringed. 17 U.S.C. § 504 (C) (1). For information concerning the registration options for collective works and contributions to collective works, see Chapter 500, Section 509.


In other cases, it may be possible to register a number of works with one application by using one of the group registration options, such as the option for registering a group of unpublished works, a group of short online literary works, or a group of published or unpublished photographs, provided that the applicant satisfies the eligibility criteria for these options. For information concerning these registration options, see Chapter 1100 (Registration for Multiple Works).


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