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

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906.5 Spatial Format and Layout Design

906.5 Spatial Format and Layout Design

As a general rule, the U.S. Copyright Office will not accept vague claims in “format” or “layout.” The general layout or format of a book, a page, a website, a webpage, a poster, a form, etc., is not copyrightable, because it is merely a template for expression and does not constitute original expression in and of itself. If the applicant uses the terms “layout” and/or “format” in the application, the registration specialist will communicate with the applicant to clarify the claim. Copyright protection may be available for the author’s original selection and/or arrangement of specific content if it is sufficiently creative, but the copyright does not extend to the organization without that particular content.


• Loretta Leonard published a series of books on bird watching. Each book has a two-inch right margin and a half-inch left margin, with the text appearing in two columns of differing lengths. Loretta submits an application to register the template for this layout. The registration specialist will refuse to register this claim because the layout of these books does not contain a sufficient amount of originality to be protected by copyright law.

• Fred Foster publishes a one-page newsletter titled Condo Living that provides information for residents of his condominium complex. Each issue contains the name of the newsletter, a drawing of the sun rising over the complex, two columns reserved for text, and a box underneath the columns reserved for photographs. Fred attempts to register the layout for his newsletter. The registration specialist will reject the claim in layout, but may register the illustration if it is sufficiently creative.

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