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721.11 User Manuals and Other Documentation for a Computer Program

721.11 User Manuals and Other Documentation for a Computer Program


User manuals, instructional booklets, flowcharts, and other documentation that explain the development or operation of a computer program may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, provided that they contain a sufficient amount of original authorship. If text is the predominant form of authorship, the work may be registered as a nondramatic literary work. If the predominant form of authorship consists of artwork, illustrations, or photographs, the work may be registered as a work of the visual arts. If the predominant form of authorship consists of audiovisual material, the work may be registered as a work of the performing arts. See 37 C.F.R. § 202.3 (B) (1) (I)-(iii).


If the claimant owns the copyright in the program and the user manual or other documentation for that program, and if the claimant physically bundled these items together and distributed them to the public in the same, integrated unit (such as a shrink-wrapped box containing a disk and booklet), it may be possible to register them together with one application and one filing fee. For information concerning this option, see Chapter 1100, Section 1103. By contrast, if the program and the documentation are distributed online, if they are distributed separately from each other, or if they are owned by different claimants, each element is considered a separate work and a separate application for each element is required.


When asserting a claim in a user manual or other documentation, 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.


For a discussion of the deposit requirements for user manuals and other documentation, see Chapter 1500, Section 1509.1 (F) (7).