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

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618.7 Collective Works

618.7 Collective Works

A collective work “is a work, such as a periodical issue, anthology, or encyclopedia, in which a number of contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole.” 17 U.S.C. § 101.

To register a claim in a collective work and/or a contribution to a collective work, the applicant should identify the authorship that the applicant intends to register. By definition, a collective work contains two types of authorship:

• The compilation authorship in the collective work, which typically involves selecting, coordinating, and/or arranging a number of separate and independent works and assembling them into a collective whole; and

• The authorship in the separate and independent works included within the collective work, such as an article that appears in a periodical issue, a poem that appears in an anthology, or a sound recording that appears on an album.

An applicant may register both forms of authorship (I) if the author created both the component works and the collective work authorship (i.e., the creative selection, coordination, and/or arrangement of the component works), and/or (ii) if the claimant fully owns the copyright in the contributions and the collective work at the time the claim is submitted, and (iii) if the component works have not been previously published, previously registered, and are not in the public domain.


• Elizabeth Barrett wrote a short story, which was published in an anthology containing twelve stories by different authors. Alfred Pennington compiled the stories that appear in this anthology. Alfred obtained the right to use each story in the anthology, but he did not acquire the copyright in any of these contributions. Alfred may register the anthology as a collective work, but he is not entitled to register the copyright in any of the stories. Elizabeth may register the copyright in her story as a contribution to a collective work, but cannot register the copyright in the anthology as a whole.

Collective works often contain unclaimable material, such as contributions that are not owned by the copyright claimant or contributions that were previously registered or previously published. If a collective work contains an appreciable amount of unclaimable material, the applicant should exclude that material from the claim using the procedure described in Section 621.8. For guidance in registering a catalog as a collective work, see Chapter 900, Section 915.

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