A compilation “is a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship.” 17 U.S.C. § 101.
A compilation may contain several distinct forms of authorship. There may be selection authorship involved in choosing the material or data that will be included in the compilation. There may be coordination authorship involved in classifying, categorizing, ordering, or grouping the material or data. In addition, there may be arrangement authorship involved in determining the placement or arrangement of the material or data within the compilation as a whole. A registration for a compilation may cover each type of authorship if that authorship is sufficiently creative, but it does not cover any preexisting material or data that appears within the compilation unless that material (I) is copyrightable, (ii) is owned by the copyright claimant, and (iii) is specifically claimed in the application. Likewise, it does not cover any preexisting material or data that has been previously published or previously registered, or any material that is in the public domain. 17 U.S.C. § 103 (B).
To register a claim to copyright in a compilation the applicant should identify the new material that the author contributed to the work and should specify the preexisting material or data that was selected, coordinated, and/or arranged (e.g., “selection and arrangement of data” or “compilation of sound recordings”). 17 U.S.C. § 409 (9).
When completing an online application, the applicant should provide this information on the Authors screen in the field marked Other. Specifically, the applicant should provide a brief statement that (I) identifies the preexisting material or data that appears in the compilation and (ii) specifies whether the author selected, coordinated, and/or arranged that material or data.
Currently, the total amount of text that may be provided in the Author Created / Other field is limited to 100 characters. If more space is required, the applicant should provide the additional information in the Note to Copyright Office field.
When completing a paper application, the applicant should provide a brief statement in space 2 under the heading Nature of Authorship that identifies the authorship that the applicant intends to register.
As a general rule, if the applicant states “compilation of ” and specifies the preexisting material or data that appears in the work, the registration specialist may register the claim, provided that the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement authorship that the applicant intends to register is clearly evident from the deposit copy(ies).
• Online application for a literary work containing a selection of thirty-five poems by William Butler Yeats written between 1896 and 1916 and coordinated based on theme, symbolism, and meter.
Author Created/Other: Compilation of poems by W.B. Yeats.
• Online application for a sound recording containing a selection of fifty big band recordings produced in Chicago and coordinated based on performing group, featured artist, instruments, and recording medium.
Author Created/Other: Compilation of big band sound recordings.
• Online application for a literary work containing a selection of 10,000 statistics from the 1995-2000 major league baseball seasons, coordination of statistics by team, player, and position, and arrangement of statistics in charts, tables, and graphs.
Author Created/Other: Compilation of major league baseball statistics.
If the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement authorship is not demonstrated in the deposit copy(ies), the registration specialist may communicate with the applicant, which will delay the examination of the claim. In such cases, the specialist may ask the applicant to provide a more specific authorship statement, such as:
• Selection of [specify the preexisting material or data that has been selected and specify the criteria used to select the material or data].
• Coordination of [specify the preexisting material or data that has been coordinated and specify the criteria used to classify, categorize, organize, or group the material data].
• Arrangement of [specify the preexisting material or data that has been arranged and specify the manner in which the material or data has been arranged].
As discussed above, a claim to copyright in a compilation may cover the preexisting material that appears in that work, provided it (I) is sufficiently creative and copyrightable, (ii) is owned by the copyright claimant, (iii) is specifically claimed in the application, and (iv) has not been previously published or previously registered. In no case may the claimant register material or data that is in the public domain. 17 U.S.C. §103 (B).
Compilations often contain unclaimable material, such as a selection of data that has been previously registered, a coordination of data that has been previously published, or an arrangement of data that is owned by a third party. If a compilation contains an appreciable amount of unclaimable material, the applicant should exclude that material from the claim using the procedure described in Section 621.8.