General Copy Requirements

Unpublished works

Published works

Electronic Copy Requirements

Computer Program Electronic Copy Requirements

For a new computer program, the electronic copy submitted for registration should be the first 25 and last 25 pages or equivalent units of the source code. Instructions follow below for a claim in a revised computer program.

In any case where the program is so structured that it has no identifiable beginning or end, the applicant should make a determination as to which pages may reasonably represent the “first 25” and “last 25” pages.

In all cases, the portion of the program displaying the copyright notice, if any, should be included in any electronic copy sent to the Copyright Office.

See the instructions below for registering a program that contains trade secrets or other confidential material,

Equivalent units

For a program that is not represented by “pages,” the Office leaves the determination of what is an “equivalent unit” to the applicant. As a rule of thumb, 40 lines of code may be considered equal to a page. Thus, the first 1000 and last 1000 lines of code would be an acceptable electronic copy.

Source Code

The source code for a particular program is the code as actually written by the author in a particular programming language.  Source code is distinguished from object code which is generally the code translated from the original programming language and compiled by a computer into a machine-readable hexadecimal (octal, or binary) representation.

Revised Computer Programs

For a revised computer program where the revisions occur throughout the entire program, the first 25 pages and last 25 pages will suffice. If the revisions do not occur in the first 25 and last 25 pages, the electronic copy should consist of any 50 pages representative of the revised material. The copy should include the portion that contains the copyright notice, if any.

Trade Secret/Confidential Material

When a program contains trade secret or other confidential material, the electronic copy may consist of

  1. the first 10 and last 10 pages of the source code; or
  2. the first 25 and last 25 pages of object code with a 10-page consecutive segment of source code from any part of the program; or
  3. the first 25 and last 25 pages of source code with the portions containing trade secrets or confidential material blocked out.

In the case of a revised program where the revisions are not contained in the first 25 and last 25 pages, the electronic copy may consist of either 20 pages of source code representative of the revised material or 50 pages of source code representative of the revised material with trade secret or confidential material blocked out.  In any copy option where portions of the code are blocked out, the blocked-out portions must be proportionately less than the material remaining.

Two methods are recommended for “blocking out” or deleting material. Deleted characters may be replaced with “XXXXX”s or blank spaces.  Alternatively characters and the lines on which they appear may be completely deleted, with a statement inserted where each deletion is made stating “.... lines (characters) of code deleted because of trade secret or confidential material.” This statement highlights the location and amount of material deleted when a larger segment of text is involved.

If the proposed methods of signaling the deletion of trade secret/confidential material pose a hardship, applicants may propose other methods for consideration by the Examining Division.

Object Code

Object code is the program as compiled from its original language into a hexadecimal (octal, binary) representation. An object code electronic deposit in the Copyright Office would normally be the first 25 and last 25 pages of a listing or “dump” of the string of alphanumeric hexadecimal (or numeric octal or binary) code, i.e., the program in its compiled form.

Registration will be made for a computer program on the basis of an object code copy alone, provided that the applicant states in writing that the work as deposited contains copyrightable authorship. (The statement may appear at the end of the application in the “Note to Examiner” field.) Such registrations are made under the Office's rule of doubt since the Office cannot determine with certainty the presence of copyrightable authorship.

Hardcopy Deposit Requirements

Unpublished work

Send one complete copy of the copyrightable content of your work. Select “submit by Mail” from the Deposit Copy Submission Screen. The Deposit Copy Shipping Slip will appear on the screen and you will need to print the slip and attach it to the deposit copy before mailing to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Published work

If you are unable to submit an electronic deposit (see Electronic Copy Requirements above), you must send a hardcopy deposit that complies with the C.O. deposit requirements. Normally, this deposit consists of two copies of the best edition of the particular version of the published work you are registering. For some works, one copy is required, rather than two. For other works, identifying material is required rather than the published copy itself. (Note: these works may therefore qualify for electronic deposit.) For more information regarding the correct or appropriate deposit to send, see the circular on our website that covers the type of work you are registering.