Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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717.2 Legal Documents

717.2 Legal Documents

Contracts, insurance policies, or other legal documents may be registered if they contain a sufficient amount of expression that is original to the author. The U.S. Copyright Office may register briefs, motions, prepared testimony, expert reports, or other legal pleadings, provided that they contain a sufficient amount of expression that originated with the author (regardless of whether the pleading has or has not been filed with a judicial or administrative body). Likewise, the Office may register books that contain sample forms used in preparing contracts, pleadings, or other legal documents.

Legal documents typically contain an appreciable amount of language that may have been obtained from other sources, such as standard form contracts, prior pleadings, form books, and the like. Much of this language may have been previously published, it may be owned by other parties, or it may be in the public domain. Often the language used in a legal document may be determined by the requirements of the relevant statutory, regulatory, or decisional law. In some cases, the author may be required to use specific legal terminology or a specific sentence structure, such as the boilerplate language found in a lease, bailment, chattel mortgage, security interest, or similar transactions.

The Office may register a legal document that contains an appreciable amount of unclaimable material, provided that the claim is limited to the new material that the author contributed to the work and provided that the unclaimable material has been excluded from the claim. For purposes of registration, unclaimable material includes previously published material, previously registered material, public domain material, or copyrightable material that is owned by another party.

When completing the application, the applicant should provide a brief statement that describes the new material that the author contributed to the work, such as “new text,” and a brief statement that describes the unclaimable material that should be excluded from the claim, such as “standard legal language.” In the case of an online application, this information should be provided in the Author Created, New Material Included, and Material Excluded fields. In the case of a paper application submitted on Form TX, it should be provided in spaces 2, 6 (A), and 6 (B). For guidance on completing these portions of the application, see Chapter 600, Sections 618.4 and 621.8.

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