Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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804.7 (A) Dramatizations or Adaptations


804.7 (A) Dramatizations or Adaptations


When a novel, story, or poem is adapted into a drama, the adaptation is considered a dramatic work. The U.S. Copyright Office categorizes an adaptation of a dramatic work as a dramatic work, because the work remains dramatic in nature, even if the new material added is nondramatic.


To be considered a derivative work, an adaptation must be based on a preexisting work that constitutes copyrightable subject matter. The Office does not view plays adapted from or based on historical or present day factual events as derivative works because facts are not copyrightable.




• The applicant names Robert Cahill as the author of an adapted screenplay, and names Screenwriters, Inc. as the copyright claimant (by written transfer). In the Material Excluded field the applicant identifies the preexisting material as the musical play Broadway in B. In the New Material Included field the applicant states that Robert created an “adapted screenplay.” The application will be accepted.


• The applicant names Mark Randolph as the author of an “adaptation,” identifies The Playground by well-known author George Beach as preexisting material, and describes the New Material Included as “Adaptation for stage play.” The registration specialist may communicate with the applicant, because the preexisting work is well-known, the work is protected by copyright, and it seems unlikely that Mark obtained permission to create a derivative work based upon the preexisting work.


For guidance in completing an application to register a dramatization or adaptation, see Section 804.9 (D) (1).


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