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

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613.2 When Authorship Is Determined

613.2 When Authorship Is Determined

A work is protected by copyright from the moment that it has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression. 17 U.S.C. § 102 (A). As soon as a work is written down on paper, captured on film, recorded in an audio file, saved onto an electronic storage device, or set in any other tangible medium of expression, the copyright immediately becomes the property of the author or authors who created the work (or in the case of a work made for hire, the employer of the person who created the work or the party that commissioned the work). 17 U.S.C. § 201 (A), (B). Thus, the author of a work is determined when the work is created.


• Joseph Andrews wrote a biography titled Finding Henry Fielding. Andrews assigned the copyright in this work to Oxbridge University but died before the work was published. Oxbridge subsequently submits an application to register the work, naming itself as the copyright claimant for the work. Andrews should be named as the author, even though he died before the application was filed.

• Friend Filter LLC submits an application for a computer program naming itself as the author of the work. In the Note to Copyright Office field the applicant explains that Jay Rothenberg is the president of the company, that he wrote the program in 2005, and that he assigned the copyright to Friend Filter when the company was formed in 2007. The registration specialist will communicate with the applicant and explain that Jay should be named as the author of the work, not the company.

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