Copyright Compendium

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1603.3 A Portion of the Work Must Be Fixed

1603.3 A Portion of the Work Must Be Fixed


Copyright law protects “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression” but it does not extend to “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery.” 17 U.S.C. § 102 (A), (B). A work of authorship is not eligible for preregistration unless the author began to create the work on or before the date that the application is submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office, and unless at least a portion of the work has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression as of that date. See 37 C.F.R. § 202.16 (B) (2)(ii). The amount of material needed to satisfy this requirement varies depending upon the nature of the work:


• If the work is a motion picture, the filming of the work must have commenced.


• If the work is a sound recording, the recording of the sounds must have begun.


• In the case of a musical composition, at least some of the work must have been fixed either in the form of musical notation or in a copy or phonorecord embodying a performance of some or all of the work.


• In the case of a literary work being prepared for publication in book form, the actual writing of the text of the book must be underway.


• For a computer program, at least some portion of the source code or object code must have been fixed.


• For an advertising or marketing photograph, the photograph must have been taken. In the case of a group of photographs intended for simultaneous publication, at least one of the photographs in the group must have been taken.


37 C.F.R. § 202.16 (B) (2)(ii) (A)- (F). Although a portion of the work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression in order to seek preregistration, the applicant should not submit a copy or phonorecord of the work or any portion of the work with the application for preregistration. For a discussion of this issue, see Section 1606.7.