727.1 What Is a Database?
For purposes of copyright registration, a “database” is defined as a compilation of digital information comprised of data, information, abstracts, images, maps, music, sound recordings, video, other digitized material, or references to a particular subject or subjects. In all cases, the content of a database must be arranged in a systematic manner, and it must be accessed solely by means of an integrated information retrieval program or system with the following characteristics:
• A query function must be used to access the content.
• The information retrieval program or system must yield a subset of the content, or it must organize the content based on the parameters specified in each query.
A single-file database is a database comprised of one data file that contains a group of data records pertaining to a common subject, regardless of the size or amount of the data that the records contain. A multi-file database is a database comprised of separate and distinct groups of data records covering multiple subjects. A data record contains all of the information related to a particular unit of information within a database. A “data file” is defined as a group of data records pertaining to a common subject matter, regardless of the size of the records or the amount of data they contain. 37 C.F.R. § 202.20 (C) (2)(vii) (D) (2).
As a general rule, databases are considered machine-readable works, because they are fixed or published in optical discs, magnetic tapes, or similar storage media, and as a result they cannot be perceived without the aid of a machine or device.
Websites may contain databases, but they are not considered databases for the purpose of copyright registration. As discussed above, users retrieve sets of data or other content from a database by using a query function that fetches content that matches the criteria specified by the user. By contrast, users retrieve content from a website by using a browser function that allows the user to locate and link to the specific pages of the website where information or content is stored.