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Chapter 2400

705 Fixation of Literary Works

705 Fixation of Literary Works


A literary work may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office if it has been “fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which [it] can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated.” 17 U.S.C. § 102 (A). A literary work is considered “fixed in a tangible medium of expression” when it has been embodied “in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author” that “is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit [the work] to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than a transitory duration.” 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “fixed”).


There are countless ways that a literary work may be fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Most literary works are fixed by their very nature, such as a poem written on paper, a short story saved in a computer file, an article printed in a periodical, or a novel embodied in an audio recording. However, some copies or phonorecords may not be sufficiently permanent or stable to warrant registration. The registration specialist may communicate with the applicant or may refuse registration if the work is fixed in a medium that only exists for a transitory period of time, a medium that is constantly changing, or a medium that does not allow the specific words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia that constitute the literary work to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated in a consistent and uniform manner.

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