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Registering Your Copyright

The U.S. Copyright Office registers several different kinds of work. A general overview of the different kinds appears below.

Literary Work

This refers to nondramatic literary work: written work not meant for performance of any kind, excluding a periodical or serial issue. Literary Works include a wide variety of works: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, textbooks, reference works, directories, catalogs, advertising copy, compilations of information, computer code and databases.

Work of the Visual Arts

Visual Arts works include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, technical drawings and architectural works. Copyrightable text that accompanies a visual arts work can also be registered on the same application.

Work of the Performing Arts

Performing Arts works can include musical work (with or without lyrics), a dramatic work like a screenplay, play or other script, a pantomime, or a choreographic work. Works of Performing Arts that also include a sound recording, are considered Sound Recording Works.

Sound Recording Work

A Sound Recording work results from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds. The author of a sound recording is the performer(s) whose performance is fixed, or the record producer who processes the sounds and fixes them in the final recording, or both.

Exception: Under copyright law, the sounds that accompany an audiovisual work (for example, a motion picture) are not defined as a Sound Recording but rather as a Motion Picture/Audiovisual work.

Sound Recording registration can include both the sound recording and the underlying recorded musical, dramatic, or literary work(s), along with the sound recording of the work(s). Note: To register both the sound recording and the underlying work on a single application, the copyright claimant must own all rights in both works.

Motion Picture/Audiovisual Work

A Motion Picture or Audiovisual Work can include a feature film, documentary film, animated film, television show, video, videogame, or other audiovisual work. An audiovisual work is a work that consists of a series of related images that are intended to be shown by the use of a machine or device, together with accompanying sounds, if any.


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