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

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919.2 Derivative Maps

919.2 Derivative Maps

Maps are often based on one or more preexisting works. A derivative map may be eligible for registration if the author added a sufficient amount of new authorship to the preexisting material, such as creative depictions of new roads, historical landmarks, or zoning boundaries.

If the map contains an appreciable amount of material that has been previously published, previously registered, material that is in the public domain, or material that is owned by a third party, the applicant should exclude that material from the claim and should limit the claim to the new copyrightable authorship that the author contributed to the derivative map. For guidance in completing this portion of the application, see Chapter 600, Section 621.8.

The U.S. Copyright Office will refuse to register a derivative map if the work does not contain a sufficient amount of new authorship. For instance, “[a]dditions to … preexisting maps such as color, shading, and labels using standard fonts and shapes fall within the narrow category of works that lack even a minimum level of creativity” required for registration. Darden v. Peters, 488 F.3d 277, 287 (4th Cir. 2007). Reprints of public domain maps or previously published materials are not registrable. Similarly, maps that consist solely of public domain elements, common elements, or elements that contain no original compilation authorship are not registrable, such as an outline map of the United States containing nothing more than the names of the state capitals.

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