711 Collective Works and Contributions to Collective Works
The Copyright Act defines a “collective work” as a work “in which a number of
contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are
assembled into a collective whole.” 17 U.S.C. § 101. A contribution to a collective work is a separate and independent work that has been included within a collective work.
Collective works are a subset of compilations. Consequently, the author must select, coordinate, and/or arrange the component works in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship. See 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “compilation” stating that “[t]he term ‘compilation’ includes collective works.”).
Both collective works and contributions to collective works 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 work shall be considered a work made for hire. Compare 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “compilation”) (“The term ‘compilation’ includes collective works.”), with id. (definition of “work made for hire”) (“a ‘work made for hire’ is … a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work [or] … as a compilation…”). For a detailed discussion of works made for hire, see Chapter 500, Section 506.
Collective works and contributions to collective works may be registered as nondramatic literary works, provided that they contain a sufficient amount of literary expression. Examples of collective works that may satisfy this requirement include a periodical issue, an anthology, an encyclopedia, or any other work that contains a number of separate and independent works that have been assembled into a collective whole. See 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “collective work”). Examples of a contribution to a collective work that may satisfy this requirement include an article that has been included within a periodical issue, an essay that has been included within an anthology, or an entry that has been included within an online encyclopedia.
Collective works typically contain two different types of authorship:
• The authorship in the collective work as a whole, which may involve selecting, coordinating, and/or arranging a number of separate and independent works and assembling them into a collective work, and/or revising the collective work as a whole.
• The authorship in the separate and independent works that have been included in the collective work, which may contain literary expression and/or artistic expression.
An applicant may register a collective work together with the separate and independent works contained therein (I) if the copyright in the contributions and the collective work are owned by the same claimant, and (ii) if the component works have not been previously published or registered. In no case may the claimant register a contribution that is in the public domain. If the copyright in the collective work and the contributions to the collective work are owned by different parties, separate applications for each work will be required. For additional information concerning collective works, see Chapter 500, Section 509.
When asserting a claim in a collective work and/or a contribution to a collective work, the applicant should identify the copyrightable authorship 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 and 621.8 (E).
For guidance on the deposit requirements for a contribution to a collective work, see Chapter 1500, Section 1505.5.