Copyright Compendium

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710 Compilations

 

710 Compilations

 

The Copyright Act defines a “compilation” as “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.

 

Compilations are among the nine categories of works that can be specially ordered or commissioned as a work made for hire, provided that the parties expressly agree in a signed written instrument that the compilation shall be considered a work made for hire. See 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “work made for hire,” Section 2). For a detailed discussion of works made for hire, see Chapter 500, Section 506.

 

Typically, the author of a compilation selects the preexisting material or data that will be included in the compilation, the author classifies, categorizes, or groups these elements into particular sequences, and the author decides how these elements should be arranged within the compilation as a whole. A compilation may be registered if the author’s selection, coordination, and/or arrangement of preexisting material or data was independently created, and if the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement contains a sufficient amount of creativity. A registration for a compilation may cover the author’s original selection, coordination, and/or arrangement, but it does not cover any preexisting material or data that is included in the compilation. See 17 U.S.C. § 103 (B) (“Copyright in a compilation . . . does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material”).

 

The compilation must fall within one or more of the categories listed in Section 102 (A) of the Copyright Act. See H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 57 (1976) reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5670; S. REP. NO. 94-473, at 54-55 (1975). In other words, a compilation may be registered if the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement as a whole would be considered a literary work, a musical work, or any other type of work listed in 17

 

U.S.C. § 102 (A). If the author’s selection, coordination, and/or arrangement does not fall within one or more of the congressionally established categories of authorship, the registration specialist may communicate with the applicant or may refuse registration. See Registration of Claims to Copyright, 77 Fed. Reg. 37,605, 37,606 (June 22, 2012).

 

Examples of nondramatic literary works that may be registered as a compilation include the following:

 

• Yellow pages directories, street directories, criss-cross directories, membership lists, price lists, catalogs, financial reports, financial ratings, and the like may be registered as a compilation, provided that the author contributed a sufficient amount of selection, coordination, and/or arrangement authorship to the work.

 

• Charts, tables, graphs, figures, diagrams, and the like may be registered as a compilation, provided that there is a sufficient amount of original authorship in the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement of data or other textual or numerical elements.

 

• A populated database that presents data in an organizational framework for recording information may be registered as a compilation, provided that there is a sufficient amount of original authorship in the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement of data. If the author subsequently updates the database by inserting new data into the original framework, it may be possible to register the updates as a derivative work, provided that the updates contain a sufficient amount of new data and provided that the author contributed a substantial amount of new copyrightable authorship in the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement of new data that appears in each update.

 

When asserting a claim in a compilation, the applicant should provide the name of each author who created the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement that the applicant intends to register, and the applicant should assert a claim to copyright in that material using the procedures described in Chapter 600, Sections 618.7, 618.6, and 621.8 (D).

 

For a general discussion of the legal standard for determining whether a compilation contains a sufficient amount of original expression to warrant registration, see Chapter 300, Section 312.2.

 

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