Copyright Compendium

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721.5 Relationship Between Source Code and Object Code

721.5 Relationship Between Source Code and Object Code


The U.S. Copyright Office views source code and object code as two representations of the same work. See GCA Corp. v. Chance, 217 U.S.P.Q. 718, 719-20 (N.D. Cal. 1982) ([b]ecause the object code is the encryption of the copyrighted source code, the two are to be treated as one work … “).


As a general rule, the Office will not issue separate registrations for the source code and object code versions of the same program. If a program was registered in unpublished form based on a submission of object code, the Office may register the first published version of the same program based on a submission of source code (or vice versa), even if the published version “is substantially the same as the unpublished version.” 17 U.S.C.

§ 408 (E); 37 C.F.R. § 202.3 (B) (11) (I).


For details concerning the deposit requirements for registering a computer program with a submission of object code, see Chapter 1500, Section 1509.1 (F) (4) (B).

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