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

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1509.1 (F) (4) (A) Background


1509.1 (F) (4) Source Code That Contains Trade Secret Material 1509.1 (F) (4) (A) Background


Section 705 (A) of the Copyright Act requires the Register of Copyrights to prepare and maintain “records of deposits, registrations, recordations, and other actions” taken by the U.S. Copyright Office. 17 U.S.C. § 705 (A). Section 705 (B) states that all deposits maintained by the Office in connection with a completed copyright registration, “shall be open to public inspection.” Id. § 705 (B).


In the 1980s a concern was expressed that making computer programs available for public inspection could jeopardize a copyright owner’s trade secret protection under state law. In response to these concerns, the Office established a specific procedure for source code that contains trade secret material.


For purposes of registration, a trade secret includes “any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one’s business, and which gives him an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.” Kewanee Oil Co. v. Bicron Corp., 416 U.S. 470, 474-75 (1974) (quoting the Restatement of Torts § 757, comment b (1939)).


See generally Registration of Claims to Copyright Deposit Requirements for Computer Programs Containing Trade Secrets and for Computer Screen Displays, 54 Fed. Reg. 13,173, 13,173 (Mar. 31, 1989); Registration of Claims to Copyright; Deposit Requirements for Computer Programs Containing Trade Secrets, 51 Fed. Reg. 34,667, 34,667-68 (Sept. 30, 1986); Notice of Inquiry Deposit of Computer Programs and Other Works Containing Trade Secrets, 48 Fed. Reg. 22,951, 22,952 (May 23, 1983).


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