Copyright Compendium

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721.2 What Is a Derivative Computer Program?

721.2 What Is a Derivative Computer Program?

A derivative computer program is a program that is “based upon one or more preexisting works.” 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “derivative work”). Typically, a

derivative computer program is a new version of a preexisting program, or a program that contains material from a preexisting work that has been revised, augmented, abridged, or otherwise modified such that the modifications as a whole represent an original work of authorship.


• Telamon Software submits an application to register a computer program titled Ajax 4.0. The program corrects certain problems found in previous versions of the same program. For instance, it increases the number of file formats that can be processed by the program, it doubles the speed for decoding graphics, and it allows the program to work with other types of graphics cards and semiconductor chips. Ajax 4.0 would be considered a derivative computer program. See Montgomery v. Noga, 168 F.3d 1282, 1290- 91 (11th Cir. 1999).

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