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618.5 Derivative Works

618.5 Derivative Works


A derivative work “is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgement, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.” 17 U.S.C. § 101.


To register a claim to copyright in a derivative work the applicant should identify the new material that the author contributed to the work, as well as “any preexisting work or works that it is based on or incorporates.” 17 U.S.C. § 409 (9). By definition, a derivative work contains two types of authorship:


• The authorship in the preexisting work(s) that have been recast, transformed, or adapted within the derivative work; and


• The new authorship involved in recasting, transforming, or adapting the preexisting work(s).


When completing an online application, the applicant should identify the new authorship that the applicant intends to register on the Authors screen. Specifically, the


applicant should check one or more of the boxes that appear under the heading Author Created that accurately describe the new copyrightable material that will be submitted for registration. If none of these terms fully describe the new material that the applicant intends to register, the applicant should provide a more specific description in the field marked Other. For guidance on completing this portion of the application, see Section 618.4 (A).


When completing a paper application, the applicant should provide this information in space 2 under the heading Nature of Authorship. For guidance on completing this portion of the application, see Section 618.4 (B).


Derivative works often contain previously published material, previously registered material, public domain material, or material owned by a third party, because by definition, they are based upon one or more preexisting works. 17 U.S.C. § 101

(definition of “derivative work”). If a derivative work contains an appreciable amount of unclaimable material, the applicant should limit the claim to the new copyrightable material that the author contributed to the work using the procedure described in Section 621.8.


For representative examples that demonstrate how to complete the Author Created field and the Nature of Authorship space in an application to register a derivative work, see Section 621.8 (E).

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