Copyright Compendium

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712.2 (A) Copyrightable Authorship in Serials

712.2 (A) Copyrightable Authorship in Serials


Most serials are collective works, because they typically contain “a number of contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, [that] are assembled into a collective whole.” 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “collective work”). As such, they typically contain two different types of authorship:


• The authorship in the compilation, which may involve selecting, coordinating, and/or arranging a number of separate and independent works within the serial as a whole, and/or revising the serial as a whole.


• The authorship in the separate and independent works that have been included within the serial, which may contain literary expression and/or artistic expression.


As with any other type of collective work, an applicant may register a serial together with the separate and independent works contained therein, (I) if the claimant owns the copyright in the serial and the contributions, and (ii) if those contributions have not been previously published or registered. In no case may the claimant register a contribution that is in the public domain.


A registration for a single issue of a serial publication covers the particular issue that has been submitted for registration, as well as any contributions that may be included within the claim. The U.S. Copyright Office does not offer “blanket registrations” that cover future issues or future contributions to that publication.

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