Copyright Compendium

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703 What Is a Literary Work?

 

703 What Is a Literary Work?

 

The Copyright Act defines a literary work as “works, other than audiovisual works, expressed in words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as books, periodicals, manuscripts, phonorecords, film, tapes, disks, or cards, in which they are embodied.” 17 U.S.C. § 101.

 

A literary work is a nondramatic work that explains, describes, or narrates a particular subject, theme, or idea through the use of narrative, descriptive, or explanatory text, rather than dialog or dramatic action. Generally, nondramatic literary works are intended to be read; they are not intended to be performed before an audience.

Examples of nondramatic literary works include the following types of works:

 

• Fiction

 

• Nonfiction

 

• Poetry

 

• Directories

 

• Catalogs

 

• Textbooks

 

• Reference works

 

• Advertising copy

 

• Compilations of information

 

• Computer programs

 

• Databases

 

See 37 C.F.R. § 202.3 (B) (1) (I); H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 54 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5667.