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

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1112.1 What Is a Database?

1112.1 What Is a Database?

Following an extensive rulemaking, the U.S. Copyright Office concluded that a database created or published on a particular date and any subsequent updates and revisions to that database may qualify as a “group of related works” under Section 408 (C) (1) of the Copyright Act. The Office explained that “factors such as [the] size, complexity and technological characteristics” of these works, as well as their “rapidly changing content” “distinguish the automated database from other groups of related works.” See Registration of Claims to Copyright, Registration and Deposit of Databases, 54 Fed. Reg. 13,177, 13,178 (Mar. 31, 1989).

For purposes of copyright registration, a database is defined as a compilation of digital information comprised of data, information, abstracts, images, maps, music, sound recordings, video, other digitized material, or references to a particular subject or subjects. In all cases, the content of a database must be arranged in a systematic manner, and it must be accessed solely by means of an integrated information retrieval program or system with the following characteristics:

• A query function must be used to access the content.

• The information retrieval program or system must yield a subset of the content, or it must organize the content based on the parameters specified in each query.

A single-file database is a database comprised of one data file that contains a group of data records pertaining to a common subject, regardless of the size or amount of the data that the records contain. A multi-file database is a database comprised of separate and distinct groups of data records covering multiple subjects. A data record contains all the information related to a particular unit of information within a database. A data file is defined as a group of data records pertaining to a common subject matter, regardless of the size of the records or the amount of data they contain. 37 C.F.R. § 202.20 (C) (2)(vii) (D) (2).

As a general rule, databases are considered machine-readable works because they are fixed or published in optical discs, magnetic tapes, or similar storage media, and as a result they cannot be perceived without the aid of a machine or device. See 37 C.F.R. § 202.20 (C) (2)(vii).

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