Third edition of USA copyright office compendium – book jackets and games

Book Jackets

Book jackets often contain several types of authorship that is separate from the book itself, such as text, illustrations, and photographs. If text is the predominant form of authorship in the jacket, the work may be registered as a nondramatic literary work. If the predominant form of author ship consists of artwork, illustrations, or photographs, the jacket may be registered as a work of the visual arts.

When asserting a claim in a book jacket, the applicant should clearly indicate that the claim extends to the copyrightable material that appears on the jacket. Specifically, the claim should be limited to the text, artwork, and/or photographs that appear on the jacket, the applicant should provide the name of the author who created that material, and the applicant should provide the name of the claimant who owns the copyright in that material. The Literary Division may accept a claim in “text” if the jacket contains a sufficient amount of written expression, or a claim in “artwork” and/or “photograph(s)” if the jacket contains a sufficient amount of pictorial or graphic expression.

If the claim in the book jacket is based solely on the title of the work, the registration specialist will refuse to register the claim. If the claim is based solely on the arrangement, spacing, juxtaposition, and layout of copyrightable or uncopyrightable elements, the registration specialist may communicate with the applicant or may refuse to register the claim if the jacket merely contains a standard arrangement that is not sufficiently creative to support a compilation claim.

A book and a book jacket may be registered (draft) with the same application if the works can be physically separated from each other, and if the copyright in both works is owned by the same claimant. In the alternative, the applicant may submit separate applications for the book and the jacket. If the applicant submits a separate application for a jacket that has been published, the Office will retain the jacket “for the longest period considered practicable and desirable by the Register of Copyrights and the Librarian of Congress.” If the applicant submits an application to register a book that has been published but does not assert a separate claim in the jacket, the Library of Congress may add the book to its collection, but the jacket will be discarded.

Games

A game may be registered as a literary work if the predominant form of authorship in the work consists of text. Examples of works that may satisfy this requirement include word games, card games, party games, riddles, brain teasers, and similar diversions, including the instructions or directions for playing a particular game. A game may be registered as a work of the visual arts if the predominant form of authorship consists of pictorial or sculptural authorship. Examples of works that may satisfy this requirement include board games, playing cards, playing pieces, and the like.

When submitting an application to register a game, the claim should be limited to the text, artwork, and/or photographs that appear in the work (as applicable), the applicant should provide the name of the author who created that material, and the applicant should provide the name of the claimant who owns the copyright in that material. The Literary Division may accept a claim in “text” if the game contains a sufficient amount of written expression, or a claim in “artwork” and/or “photograph(s)” if the work contains a sufficient amount of pictorial or graphic expression.

A registration for a game covers all of the copyrightable elements that appear in the work, regardless of whether the game has been registered as a literary work or a work of the visual arts. However, copyright does not protect the idea for a game, the name or title of a game, or the procedure, process, or method of operation for playing a game. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, or device involved in developing or marketing a game.

Once a game has been made available to the public, the copyright law cannot be used to prevent others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular expression that appears in the literary or artistic elements that the work may contain.

If the game consists of separately fixed elements and works that were physically bundled together by the claimant for distribution to the public as a single, integrated unit, it may be possible to register them with one application and one filing fee if all the works were first published in that integrated unit and if the claimant owns the copyright in those works.