Copyright Compendium

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503.4 Who Owns the Copyright in the Authorship?

503.4 Who Owns the Copyright in the Authorship?


The applicant should identify the person or organization that owns the copyrightable authorship that the author or co-authors contributed to the work. For purposes of copyright registration, this person or organization is known as the “copyright claimant.”


The copyright in a work of authorship initially belongs to the author or co-authors of that work, unless and until the author assigns the copyright to another party in a signed, written agreement or by operation of law. 17 U.S.C. §§ 201 (A), 204 (A). If the author no longer owns the copyright in the work, the applicant must provide a brief statement that explains “how the claimant obtained ownership of the copyright.” 17 U.S.C. § 409 (5). For guidance in completing these portions of the application, see Chapter 600, Sections 619 and 620.


As discussed in Section 503.3, works of authorship often contain different forms of expression. In some cases, the copyright claimant may own all of the authorship that appears in the work, while in other cases the claimant may own or may be entitled to register only certain aspects of the work. In all cases, the applicant should assert a claim only in the authorship that is owned by the claimant or co-claimants named in the application.


The following chart provides a representative example of a work that contains multiple types of authorship that is owned by multiple claimants.


Work of Authorship

Authorship Owned by Author A

Authorship Owned by Author B

Authorship Owned by Other Parties

Children’s Book

Text

Illustrations

Text, artwork, and photographs on the cover


If the claimant owns the copyright in the text of the book (but does not own the illustrations or any of the content that appears on the cover), the applicant should identify the author(s) of the text, the applicant should assert a claim in “text,” and the applicant should name A as the copyright claimant.


If the claimant owns the copyright in the illustrations (but does not own the text of the book or any of the content that appears on the cover), the applicant should identify the author(s) of those illustrations, the applicant should assert a claim in “2-D artwork,” and the applicant should name B as the copyright claimant.

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