Copyright Compendium

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808.2 (C) Motion Pictures Distinguished from Underlying Works

808.2 (C) Motion Pictures Distinguished from Underlying Works


Occasionally, an applicant submits a copy of a motion picture in order to register the “underlying work” that is recorded in the motion picture, such as the script, a musical work, choreography, pantomime, or artwork. In such cases, the motion picture is simply the medium used to “fix” the underlying work. The copyright owner of the underlying work may or may not be the copyright owner of the motion picture.


If the copyright owner of the motion picture owns the rights in the underlying work, and if the entire motion picture is being registered for the first time, the applicant should register the motion picture and the underlying work(s) with one application. To do so, the applicant should state “entire motion picture” in the application, instead of providing a separate description of the underlying work(s) embodied in the motion picture.


If the copyright in the underlying work and the copyright in the motion picture are owned by different parties, then the underlying work and the motion picture cannot be registered with the same application. Instead, the applicant should submit a separate application for the motion picture, and should identify any preexisting or separately owned material in the Material Excluded field, and should state “all other cinematographic material” in the New Material Included field.

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