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

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808.8 (C) Closed and Open Captioning

808.8 (C) Closed and Open Captioning

Television programs containing “closed captioning” enable the hearing-impaired population to read what the hearing audience can hear.

Creative authorship in closed captioning may include adapting, editing, and abridging the text that is spoken to make it fit onto a television screen. The text also may include references to particular sound effects and the musical background, as well as convey the actual sense of the dialog. Once the text has been adapted, it is encoded onto a DVD, videotape, or other storage medium.

With “open captioning,” the text is visible without the need for a special device. In some cases, the captioning is created simultaneously with the fixation, as in the case of a congressional hearing or judicial proceeding where a stenographer fixes and edits simultaneously.

If the captioning is a verbatim transcription of the spoken words, the claim is not copyrightable and will not be registered. See Chapter 300, Section 313.4 (A). Likewise, the Office cannot register a claim in captioning if the work is mechanically created or if the author did not contribute a sufficient amount of original expression in editing the text.

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