The U.S. Copyright Office cannot register a claim in research, because it suggests that the applicant may be asserting a claim in the facts that appear in the work or the effort involved in collecting that information.
The Supreme Court expressly rejected the “sweat of the brow” or “industrious collection” doctrines, which made copyright protection a “reward for the hard work” involved in creating a work. Feist, 499 U.S. at 352, 364. The Court concluded that “[p]rotection for the fruits of such research … may in certain circumstances be available under a theory of unfair competition,” but recognized that a claim to copyright “on this basis alone distorts basic copyright principles.” Id. at 354.
Although research is not copyrightable, the Office may register a work of authorship that describes, explains, or illustrates factual research, provided that the work contains a sufficient amount of original authorship. For example, a research paper, a scientific journal, or a biopic may be registered if the work contains a sufficient amount of literary, pictorial, graphic, or audiovisual expression. However, the registration does not extend to the facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries described in the work. “They may not be copyrighted and are part of the public domain available to every person.” Id. at 348 (quoting Miller v.
Universal City Studios, Inc., 650 F. 2d 1365, 1369 (5th Cir. 1981).
For a further discussion on “research” as an authorship term, see Chapter 600, Section 618.8 (A) (9).