Copyright Compendium

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503.1 (B) Copyrightable Subject Matter

503.1 (B) Copyrightable Subject Matter


A work may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, provided that it falls within one or more of the categories of authorship set forth under Section 102 (A) of the Copyright Act. Works that do not fall within one or more of these congressionally-established categories do not constitute copyrightable subject matter, and as such, cannot be registered.


Section 102 (A) of the Copyright Act states that works of authorship include the following categories of works:


• Literary works.


• Musical works, including any accompanying words.


• Dramatic works, including any accompanying music.


• Pantomimes and choreographic works.


• Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.


• Motion pictures and other audiovisual works.


• Sound recordings.


• Architectural works.


The following chart provides representative examples of works that may be registered and the relevant category of authorship for each work.


Category of Authorship

Types of Works

Literary Works

Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, serial publications (e.g., newspapers, magazines, etc.), articles, advertising copy, written communications (e.g., letters, email messages), reference works, directories, catalogs, compilations of information, computer programs, databases, ebooks, audiobooks, online textual works (e.g., blogs, website text), and similar types of textual works.

Pictorial Works

Paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, art reproductions, maps, technical drawings, diagrams, applied art (i.e., two- dimensional pictorial artwork applied to a useful article), works of artistic craftsmanship (e.g., stained glass, tapestry, wallpaper), online or digital artwork (e.g., computer-aided artwork, digital imaging, pixel art), and similar types of pictorial works.

Graphic Works

Drawings, prints, art reproductions, maps, technical drawings, diagrams, architectural plans, architectural drawings, applied art (i.e., two-dimensional graphic artwork applied to a useful article), works of artistic craftsmanship, online or digital artwork (e.g., computer-aided artwork, digital imaging, pixel art), and similar types of graphic works.

Sculptural Works

Sculptures, globes, models, applied art (i.e., three-dimensional artwork applied to a useful article), works of artistic craftsmanship, and similar types of sculptural works.

Musical Works

Songs, song lyrics, symphonies, concertos, advertising jingles, and similar types of musical works.

Dramatic Works

Plays, musicals, operas, scripts, screenplays, and similar types of dramatic works.

Choreographic Works

Ballet, modern dance, and similar types of complex dances.

Motion Pictures

Films, documentaries, television shows, cartoons, videos, online videos, motion picture soundtracks, and similar types of motion pictures.

Audiovisual Works

Videogames, slide presentations, online audiovisual works (e.g., smartphone and tablet applications, online courses and tutorials, website content), and similar types of audiovisual works.


Category of Authorship

Types of Works

Sound Recordings

A recording of a song, a recording of a vocal performance, a recording of a musical performance, a recording of a literary work (e.g., an audiobook), a digital file of a performance, and similar types of recordings.

Architectural Works

Buildings, architectural works, and architectural drawings.

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