Third edition of USA copyright office compendium – Application Tips for Databases

A single-file or multi-file database may be registered as a literary work if the predominant form of authorship in the work consists of text. A database may be registered as a work of the visual arts if the predominant form of authorship consists of photographs or other forms of pictorial authorship.

The applicant should identify the year that the author completed the specific version of the database that is submitted for registration (even if other versions exist and even if the author intends to update or revise the database in the future).

If the version that the applicant intends to register has been published as of the date that the application is filed with the U.S. Copyright Office, the applicant should provide the month, day, and year that the version being registered was published for the first time. As a general rule, the applicant should provide a date of first publication only for the specific version that is being submitted for registration.

The applicant should not provide a date of publication for the first version of the database or any other version of the database that is not included with the application. In addition, the applicant should identify the nation where the database was first published and the author’s country of citizenship or domicile. The Office will use this information to determine whether the database is eligible for copyright protection in the United States.

In all cases (draft), the applicant should identify the copyrightable authorship that the applicant intends to register, and the applicant should assert a claim to copyright in that material. To register the authorship involved in selecting, coordinating, and/or arranging the material that appears in the database, the applicant may use any of the terms listed below, provided that they accurately describe the copyrightable authorship that appears in the deposit copy(ies). In most cases, the Office will accept combinations or variant forms of these terms, unless they are contradicted by information provided in the deposit copy(ies) or elsewhere in the registration materials.

  • Compilation of data
  • Compilation of database information
  • Compilation of photographs
  • Compilation of artwork
  • Compilation and text
  • Revised and updated compilation

If the applicant asserts a claim in both the copyrightable and uncopyrightable features of the database, the registration specialist may annotate the application to indicate that the registration does not extend to the uncopyrightable features. If the applicant asserts a claim to copyright in any storage medium or any feature of the database that is uncopyrightable, the specialist may communicate with the applicant or may refuse registration if the claim appears to be based solely on those features.

If the applicant intends to register other copyrightable material that appears in the database, the applicant should describe the specific form of authorship that the author contributed to that material, such as “text,” “photographs,” “artwork,” or the like.