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

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309 Examining a Work for Copyrightable Authorship


309 Examining a Work for Copyrightable Authorship


As discussed in Section 302, the U.S. Copyright Office will examine a work of authorship to determine if “the material deposited constitutes copyrightable subject matter” and if “the other legal and formal requirements have been met.” 17 U.S.C. § 410 (A). In determining whether a work is copyrightable, the registration specialist will consider (I) the application, (ii) the deposit copy(ies), (iii) whether the correct the filing fee was submitted, as well as (iv) any communications between the applicant and the Office relating to the registration of the claim or any other material that has been submitted to the Office. Together, these items are referred to as the “registration materials.”


As discussed in Sections 304 through 308, a work may be copyrightable (I) if it is eligible for copyright protection in the United States, (ii) if the work has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression, (iii) if the work was created by a human author, (iv) if the work constitutes copyrightable subject matter, and (v) if the work contains at least a minimum amount of creative authorship that is original to the author.


When examining a claim to copyright, the registration specialist will use objective criteria to determine whether the work satisfies these requirements by reviewing the information provided in the application and by examining the deposit copy(ies), including its individual elements as well as the work as a whole. The specific criteria that the specialist will consider when examining a derivative work, a compilation, or a collective work are discussed in Sections 311 and 312. The specific criteria that the specialist will consider when examining a literary work, a work of the performing arts, or a work of the visual arts are discussed in Chapters 700, 800, and 900.


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