717 Legal Materials
Certain types of legal materials may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office if they were created by a private entity or non-lawmaking official, and if they contain a sufficient amount of original expression. Examples of legal materials that may satisfy this requirement are discussed in Sections 717.1 through 717.3 below.
When submitting an application to register these types of works, the claim should be limited to the new material that appears in the work, the applicant should provide the name of the author who created that material, and the applicant should provide the name of the claimant who owns the copyright in that material. The Literary Division may accept a claim in “text” if the work contains a sufficient amount of written expression, or a claim in “artwork” and/or “photograph(s)” if the work contains a sufficient amount of pictorial or graphic expression. When completing an online application, this information should be provided in the Author Created field, and if applicable, also in the New Material Included field. When completing a paper application on Form TX, this information should be provided in space 2, and if applicable, also in space 6 (B). For guidance on completing these portions of the application, see Chapter 600, Sections 618.4 and 621.8.
Certain types of legal materials may be registered as a compilation if the author exercised a sufficient amount of creativity in selecting, coordinating, and/or arranging the preexisting materials that appear within the deposit. When asserting a claim in a compilation, the applicant should provide the name of the 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, Section 618.6.
As discussed in Sections 717.1 and 717.2, legal materials often contain an appreciable amount of content that is not eligible for copyright protection. They also may contain an appreciable amount of content that is in the public domain, content that has been previously published, content that has been previously registered, or content that is owned by a third party. If so, the applicant should exclude this content from the application using the procedure described in Chapter 600, Section 621.8 (F).
If the applicant asserts a claim in both the copyrightable and uncopyrightable elements of the work, the registration specialist may annotate the application to indicate that the registration does not extend to the uncopyrightable elements. If the applicant asserts a claim to copyright in an element that is uncopyrightable, the registration specialist may communicate with the applicant or may refuse registration if the claim appears to be based solely on that element.
NOTE: The Office will not register legislative enactments, judicial decisions, administrative rulings, public ordinances, or similar types of official legal materials that have been issued by a federal, state, local, or territorial government. Likewise, the Office will not register “non-binding, explanatory legal materials” created by a legislator or legislative body “vested with the authority to make law” or by judges “who possess the authority to make and interpret the law.” Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., 140 S. Ct. 1498, 1504 (2020). This is known as the “government edicts doctrine.” Id. at 1504, 1506. For information concerning this doctrine, see Chapter 300, Section 313.6 (C) (2).