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

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1509.1 (F) (7) User Manuals and Other Documentation for a Computer Program


1509.1 (F) (7) User Manuals and Other Documentation for a Computer Program


User manuals, instructional booklets, flowcharts, and other documentation that explain the development or operation of a computer program may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, provided that they contain a sufficient amount of original copyrightable authorship. See Chapter 700, Section 721.11.


If the claimant owns the copyright in the program and the user manual or other documentation for that program, and if the claimant physically packaged these items together and distributed them to the public as a single, integrated unit (such as a shrink- wrapped box containing a disk and booklet), it may be possible to register them together with one application and one filing fee. Specifically, the applicant may be able to register the works with the unit of publication option. See 37 C.F.R. § 202.3 (B) (4). By contrast, if the program and the documentation are distributed online, if they are distributed separately from each other, or if they are owned by different claimants, each element is considered a separate work and a separate application for each element is required.


To register a computer program and the documentation for that program as a unit of publication, the applicant should submit one complete copy of the unit, together with identifying portions of the program code. (The deposit requirements for computer programs are discussed in Sections 1509.1 (F) (1) through 1509.1 (F) (5) above.)


To register a user manual or other documentation without asserting a claim in the computer program, the applicant should submit two complete copies of the user manual or other documentation (if the work has been published) or one complete copy of the user manual or other documentation (if the work is unpublished).


For more information concerning the unit of publication option, see Chapter 1100, § 1107.


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