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

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2121.4 Photographs


2121.4 Photographs


This class of works was registered for the original term under class J, as both published and unpublished works and, since 1978, in class VA. For renewal registration purposes, this type of work includes published and unpublished still photographic prints.


To be registrable for the renewal term, a photograph should contain original photographic authorship in the various elements involved in its composition, such as time and light exposure, camera angle, or arrangement and disposition of the subjects depicted.


Generally a photograph is not considered published until copies have actually been placed on sale, sold, or publicly distributed. However, an unrestricted public exhibition may constitute publication. While photographs are not subject to the manufacturing clause, a lithographic or photoengraving reproduction is subject to this provision.


NOTE: For renewal registration purposes, a published reproduction of a photograph produced by lithography, photoengraving, rotogravure, collotype, mezzotint, or other similar process of reproduction is not registrable as a “photograph,” but it may be registrable as a “print” or “pictorial illustration” if it meets manufacturing requirements. When the photograph is reproduced and first published as a contribution to a collection, the U.S. Copyright Office will inquire about the reproduction process and will refuse renewal registration if the photographic reproduction or the published collection did not meet manufacturing requirements at the time of first publication.


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