724 Diagrams, Models, Outlines, Pseudocode, and Other Types of Works That Illustrate or Describe a Computer Program
Diagrams, models, outlines, pseudocode, or other types of works that illustrate or describe the structure or order of operation for a computer program may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, provided that they contain a sufficient amount of original authorship. However, such illustrations or descriptions may not be claimed as computer programs.
The Literary Division may accept a claim in “text” if the work contains a sufficient amount of written expression, or a claim in “artwork,” “photograph(s),” “technical drawing,” or “graphic work” 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 Sections 721.9 (F) and 721.9 (G). When asserting a claim in these types of works, the applicant should provide the name of the author who created the work and the name of the claimant who owns the copyright in that work.
A registration for this type of work covers the copyrightable expression that appears in the deposit copy(ies). However, it does not cover the computer program that may be described in the deposit copy(ies) unless the applicant expressly asserts a claim in the program and submits an appropriate selection of source code.
As a general rule, these types of works do not contain “statements or instructions” that may be used “directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain
result,” nor do they contain any executable program code. 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “computer program”). In some cases, they may represent nothing more than an “idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery.” 17
U.S.C. § 102 (B). Therefore, if an applicant attempts to register a diagram, model, outline, or other type of work as a computer program, the registration specialist may communicate with the applicant or may refuse to register the claim.