Third edition of USA copyright office compendium – who may file an application for copyright registration

The only parties who are eligible to be the copyright claimant are (i) the author of the work, or (ii) a copyright owner who owns all of the exclusive rights in the work. A person or entity who owns one or more—but less than all—of the exclusive rights in a work is not eligible to be a claimant.

An author is either (i) the person or persons who created the work, or (ii) the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared, if the work was created during the course of employment or commissioned as a work made for hire. The author may be either a U.S. or a foreign citizen.

If the author owns all of the rights under the copyright on the date that the application is filed, the author must be named in the application as the copyright claimant. The author or the author’s duly authorized agent may certify and submit an application to register that claim. In the situation where the author certifies and submits the application, the author is considered both the applicant and the claimant. If the author’s duly authorized agent certifies and submits the application, the author is still the claimant but the author’s agent is considered the applicant.

If the author transferred all of the rights in a work to another party, either the author or the transferee may be named as the copyright claimant, and the application may be submitted by the author, the transferee, or their respective agents. If the author transferred only some of his or her rights to another party, the author must be named as the copyright claimant, and the application to register the copyright in the author’s name may be filed by the author, an owner of one or more exclusive rights, or their respective agents.

As a general rule (final version), a nonexclusive licensee is not entitled to be named as a copyright claimant or to submit an application to register a copyright claim, because a nonexclusive licensee is neither the “owner of copyright or of any exclusive right in the work.” A nonexclusive licensee may certify or submit an application to register the copyright only if the licensee is a duly authorized agent acting on behalf of the author or a person or entity that owns all of the rights under copyright that initially belonged to the author.

An author, a copyright owner who owns all of the rights in the work, or an owner of one or more of the exclusive right(s) may use a duly authorized agent to submit an application on their behalf. The Office imposes no special qualifications or tests for authorized agents (including attorneys) before they may file applications or otherwise conduct business with the Office. Nor does the Office require applications to be prepared or submitted by an attorney. In some circumstances, the Office may ask an alleged agent to submit documentation showing that he or she is in fact authorized to act for one or more of those parties.