921 Graphs, Charts, Tables, and Figures
The copyright law does not protect blank graphs, charts, tables, and figures that are designed for recording information and do not in themselves convey information. These types of works are not copyrightable, because they rarely contain more than a de minimis amount of authorship other than that necessary to implement the underlying method, technique, or idea. For the same reasons, the ideas for graphs, charts, tables, and figures or the overall design of a graphing, charting, or tabling method or template are not copyrightable. See 37 C.F.R. § 202.1 (C).
The U.S. Copyright Office will not register a blank graph, chart, table, or figure if the claim is based solely on standard color variations, such as the mere addition of only a few standard colors. See id. § 202.1 (A). However, the Office will register any copyrightable expression presented in a graph, chart, table, or figure, such as a copyrightable compilation of data, facts, or information. Additionally, the Office will register sufficiently expressive text that describes, explains, and/or interprets a particular graphing, charting, or tabling method.
• Gary Grant creates a pie chart that presents demographic information on five generations of a selected family. Gary files an application asserting a claim in “two-dimensional artwork, text, and chart.” The pie chart, in and of itself, is not copyrightable and cannot be registered. The registration specialist will communicate with the applicant and ask him to limit the claim to any registrable textual or compilation authorship.
• Gayle Giles creates a columnar table that records information about her son’s physical and intellectual growth in ten selected categories.
Gayle includes text and photographs throughout the table. Gayle files an application asserting a claim in “design, text, photographs, and two-dimensional artwork.” The registration specialist will ask the applicant to limit the claim to the text, photographs, and the compilation of data to the extent that the selection and arrangement are original.
See generally Registration of Claims to Copyright: Notice of Termination of Inquiry Regarding Blank Forms, 45 Fed. Reg. 63,297 (Sept. 24, 1980).