Standard Application Help: Author


Author's Name

Who is an author?


Generally, the author of a work is the person or persons who created the work. The only exception occurs when a work is created as a work made for hire.


Who should be named as the author of the work being registered?

You should identify the author by providing the full name of the person who created the work unless the work is anonymous or pseudonymous.  If more than one person created the work provide the full name of each person who created the work.  Note: if a person contributed material that is not copyrightable he or she should not be named as an author on the application.  For more information on copyrightable authorship click here.


Work Made for Hire

What is a Work Made for Hire?

A work made for hire is either

  • a work created by an employee within the scope of his or her employment.

or

  • a work that is specially ordered or commissioned,  provided that the parties expressly agree in a writing signed by both parties that the work is considered a “work made for hire,” and the work is specially ordered or commissioned for use as:
    • a contribution to a collective work
    • a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
    • a translation
    • a compilation
    • a test or answer material for a test
    • an atlas
    • instructional text, which is defined as a “literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities;” or
    • a supplementary work, which is defined as “a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes.”

For more information on works made for hire see Works Made for Hire (Circular 30)

Who is the author of a work made for hire?

The author of a work made for hire is the employer or party that ordered or commissioned the work. 

Who should be named as the author of the “work made for hire” being registered?

You should identify the author of a work made for hire by naming the employer of the person(s) who created the work or the party that ordered or commissioned the work.  Do not name the person or persons who actually created a work made for hire.

If the employer or commissioning party is an individual, provide the individual’s full name in the Individual Author fields and answer “yes” to the question “Is this author’s contribution a work made for hire?”

If the employer or commissioning party is an organization, provide the most complete name of the organization in the Organization Name field and answer “yes” to the question “Is this author’s contribution a work made for hire?”

Examples:       

  • John Smith is an employee of Talcum Powders, Inc.  John created a video for the company’s website. Talcum Powders, Inc. should be named as the author of this video, not John Smith.
  • Margaret Riley is a filmmaker.  Janet Jones is a screenwriter.  Margaret and Janet signed a contract stating that Janet would write a screenplay for Margaret as a “work made for hire.”  Margaret should be named as the author of this screenplay, not Janet.

How should you answer the question: Is this author’s contribution a work made for hire?

Answer “no” if the author did not create the work as a work made for hire.  Answer “yes” only if the author created the work as a “work made for hire,” as defined in the statute .  Note, if an organization is the author of a work, the work must be a work made for hire and this question should be answered “yes.”

Year of Birth

Providing an individual author’s year of birth is optional, but the Office encourages applicants to include this information because it may be useful in identifying the author. If given, the year of birth will appear in the public record.

If the work is an “anonymous” work or a “pseudonymous” work the Office encourages applicants to provide this information, although it is not required.

If the work is a “work made for hire” do not provide the year of birth, even if the author is an individual rather than an organization.


Year of Death

You should provide a year of death if the work you want to register was created by an individual author who is deceased at the time you file the application.  The copyright law requires this information, because the length of the copyright term may be based on the year that the author died.

If the work is an “anonymous” work or “pseudonymous” work the Office encourages applicants to provide this information, although it is not required.

If the work is a “work made for hire” do not provide the year of death, even if the author is an individual rather than an organization.

Author's Citizenship or Domicile

In all cases, you should identify the citizenship and/or domicile of each author.

How do you determine the author’s citizenship?

“Citizenship” means that the author is a citizen of a particular nation or the author owes permanent allegiance to a particular country, even though he or she is not a citizen of that nation.

How do you determine the author’s domicile?

“Domicile” is the nation where the author has a fixed and permanent residence, where the author intends to maintain his or her residence for an unlimited time, and whenever absent where the author intends to return.

Anonymous Work

What is an anonymous work?

A work is “anonymous” if the author is not identified on the copies or phonorecords of the work.  If the author’s name appears on the work, it is not an anonymous work, even if the author does not wish to reveal his or her identity in the registration record.

Examples:

  • The title page of a book reads:  “Prime Color by Anonymous.”  This would be considered an anonymous work, because the author’s name does not appear on the work.
  • The title page of a book reads:  “Prime Color by Anonymous (a.k.a. Joseph Cline).” This would not be considered an anonymous work, because the author’s name appears on the work.

How should you identify the author of an anonymous work?

If the work is anonymous, check the box marked “Anonymous.”  Additionally, you may provide the author’s name in the application, but it is not required.

If you do not wish to provide the author’s name leave the name fields blank or type “Anonymous” in the name field. 

If you wish to provide the author’s name complete the Individual Author name fields accordingly. 

Note: depending on the circumstances providing the author’s name in the registration record for an anonymous work may extend or reduce the term of copyright.  For additional information see the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, chapter 600, section 615.1. 

Can an organization be the author of an anonymous work?

An organization cannot be the author of an anonymous work.  If the work was created by an organization do not check the box marked “Anonymous.” 

Pseudonymous Work

What is a pseudonymous work?

A work is “pseudonymous” if the author is identified on the copies or phonorecords solely by a fictitious name. If both the author’s legal name and fictitious name appear on the copies or phonorecords of the work, the work is not pseudonymous.

Examples:

  • The title page of a book reads:  “The Cat and the Hat by Dr. Seuss.” This could be considered a pseudonymous work, because “Dr. Seuss” is a pseudonym for the author (whose real name is Theodore Geisel).
  • The title page of a book reads:  “The Cat and the Hat by Theodore Geisel.” This would not be considered a pseudonymous work, because the author’s real name appears on the work.
  • The title page of a book reads:  “The Cat and the Hat by Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Theodore Geisel).” This would not be considered a pseudonymous work, because the author’s real name appears on the work.

How should you identify the author of a pseudonymous work?

If the work is pseudonymous, check the box marked “Pseudonymous” and provide the author’s pseudonym in the space provided.  Additionally, you may provide the author’s legal name in the application, but it is not required. 

If you do not wish to provide the author’s legal name, leave the name fields blank.  If you wish to provide the author’s legal name complete the Individual Author name fields accordingly. 

Note: depending on the circumstances, providing the author’s name in the registration record for a pseudonymous work may extend or reduce the term of copyright.  For additional information see Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, chapter 600, section 615.2.

Can an organization be the author of a pseudonymous work?

An organization cannot be the author of a pseudonymous work.  If the work was created by an organization do not check the box marked “Pseudonymous.”

Author Created

Check the appropriate boxes that best describe this author’s contribution to the work. The boxes that appear correspond to the type of work you selected at the beginning of the application. If you need to be more specific, use the space under “other.”

Literary Authorship

What do you want to register?

You should identify the authorship you intend to register by checking one or more of the boxes in the field marked “Author Created.”

  • Text may include non-dramatic literary works such as books, periodicals, manuscripts, stories and poetry. It may also be used to describe textual material that accompanies a pictorial, graphic or sculptural work, such as comic strips, greeting cards, maps, commercial prints or labels, or the rules for a game. (Note: titles, names, short phrases, and slogans are not protected by copyright.).
  • Computer Program refers to computer code, that is, a set of statements or instructions to be used in a computer in order to bring about a certain result.
  • Photograph(s) includes photographic illustrations, prints, and slides.
  • Artwork refers to two-dimensional artwork, including illustrative matter such as drawings, or other non-photographic pictorial representations.

If these terms do not fully describe the authorship you intend to register, you may provide a more specific description in the field marked “Other.”


Visual Arts Authorship

What do you want to register?

You should identify the authorship you intend to register by checking one or more of the boxes in the field marked “Author Created.”

  • Photograph(s) includes photographic images, illustrations, prints and slides.
  • 2-D artwork includes watercolor and oil paintings; pen and ink drawings; logo illustrations; greeting cards; collages; stencils; patterns; computer graphics; graphics appearing in screen displays; artwork appearing on posters, calendars, games, commercial prints and labels, and packaging, as well as 2-dimensional artwork applied to useful articles, and designs reproduced on textiles, lace and other fabrics, on wallpaper, carpeting, floor tile, wrapping paper, and clothing. This term may also be used to register non-animated drawings that create the illusion of three-dimensions through the use of shading and perspective (often called 3-D drawings or 3-D artwork).
  • Jewelry design includes two-dimensional or three-dimensional designs applied to rings, pendants, earrings, necklaces, and the like.
  • Sculpture includes fine art sculptures, toys, dolls, scale models, and sculptural designs applied to useful articles.
  • Map: Maps are cartographic representations of an area, such as state and county maps, atlases, marine charts, relief maps, and globes.
  • Architectural work consists of the design of a building, including the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements of the design. Note: Any underlying architectural plans must be submitted on a separate application, checking the box for “Technical drawing”.
  • Technical Drawing: Technical drawings are diagrams illustrating scientific or technical information in linear form, such as architectural blueprints or mechanical drawings.

If these terms do not fully describe the authorship you intend to register, you may provide a more specific description in the field marked “Other.”


Performing Arts Authorship

What do you want to register?

You should identify the authorship you intend to register by checking one or more of the boxes in the field marked “Author Created.”

  • Music refers to the melody, rhythm and/or harmony of a musical composition.
  • Lyrics refers to the words of a song or other musical composition.
  • Musical Arrangement refers to a new or revised harmony or instrumentation that has been added to a preexisting musical work.
  • Text refers to the words of a script, screenplay, teleplay, treatment, synopsis, or similar works.

A script is the text of a story that is intended to be performed for an audience.

A stage script is a script that is intended to be used in a theatrical performance, such as a stage play, musical play, or other dramatic work.

A screenplay is a script that is intended to be used in a motion picture.

A teleplay is a script that is intended to be used in a television broadcast.

A treatment is a written description of a dramatic work, motion picture, television show, or similar types of works. Typically, a treatment outlines and describes the scenes and/or characters and often includes sample dialog. A treatment is generally longer and more detailed than a synopsis.

A synopsis is a brief written summary (usually one or two pages) of the major plot points and description of the characters in a dramatic work, a motion picture, a television show, or similar types of works.

If these terms do not fully describe the authorship that you intend to register, you may provide a more specific description in the field marked “Other.” For example, if the author wrote the script for a stage play, you may write “Script” or “Play.”

Note: If you want to register a song and a particular recording of that song, read these instructions.

What is the difference between a song and a recording of that song?

A song and a particular recording of that song are separate works.  For example, the song “God Bless America” and a recording of Aretha Franklin singing “God Bless America” are two distinct works.  The song itself (i.e., the music and lyrics) is a “musical work.” A recording of that song performed by a particular artist is a “sound recording.”

  • If you want to register only the musical work (i.e., register the music and/or lyrics for a song without registering a particular recording of that song), you should select “Work of the Performing Arts” on the Type of Work screen.  On the Author Created screen check the boxes for “music” and/or “lyrics.”
  • If you want to register only the sound recording (i.e., register a particular recording of a song without registering the music and/or lyrics for that song), you must select “Sound Recording” on the Type of Work screen. On the Author Created screen check the box for “sound recording.”
  • If you want to register both the musical work and the sound recording (i.e., register the music and/or lyrics for a song and register a particular recording of that song), you must select “Sound Recording” on the Type of Work screen. On the Author Created screen check the box for “sound recording” and write “music” and/or “lyrics” in the box marked “Other.”

Note:  If you want to change your initial Type of Work selection from “Work of the Performing Arts” to “Sound Recording” (or vice versa), you should discard this application and start over with a new application.

Can you register a song and a recording of that song with the same application?

A song and the sound recording of it may be registered on one application only if all the author(s) contributed to both works, or the copyright claimant owns all rights in both works through a written transfer of ownership.

If you want to register both the musical work and the sound recording (i.e., register the music and/or lyrics for a song and register a particular recording of that song), you must select “Sound Recording” on the Type of Work screen.  If you want to change your initial selection from “Work of the Performing Arts” to “Sound Recording,” you should discard this application and start over with a new application.

If the musical work and the sound recording were created by different author(s) or if the copyright in the musical work and the recording are owned by different parties, you must file two separate applications:  one application for the music and/or lyrics for the song (using the option for “Work of the Performing Arts”) and one application for the recording of the song (using the option for “Sound Recording”).


Sound Recordings Authorship

What is a sound recording?

A sound recording is a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as a digital audio file or a compact disc. A sound recording may include the performance authorship and/or the production authorship that is embodied in the recording.

  • Examples of performance authorship include playing an instrument, singing, speaking, or creating other sounds that are captured in the sound recording.
  • Examples of production authorship include the act of recording the sounds that are embodied in the sound recording, or the act of mixing, manipulating, mastering, compiling, and/or editing those sounds to produce the final recording. 

Together, the performance and production are considered a single, integrated work.

What do you want to register?

You should identify the authorship that you intend to register by checking the appropriate box in the “Author Created” field.

To register only the performance / production authorship that the author contributed to this work, check the box marked “sound recording.”

To register the performance / production authorship and the underlying musical, dramatic, or literary work that is embodied in that recording, check the box marked “Sound Recording” and briefly describe the underlying work in the field marked “Other.”   For instance, state “lyrics and music” to describe a song, “script” to describe a dramatic work, or “text” to describe a literary work.

What is the difference between a song and a recording of that song?

A song and a particular recording of that song are separate works.  For example, the song “America the Beautiful” and a recording of Whitney Houston singing “America the Beautiful” are two distinct works.  The song itself (i.e., the music and lyrics) is a “musical work.” A recording of that song performed by a particular artist is a “sound recording.”

  • If you want to register only the musical work (i.e., register the music and/or lyrics for a song without registering a particular recording of that song), you should select “Work of the Performing Arts” on the Type of Work screen.  On the Author Created screen check the boxes for “music” and/or “lyrics.”
  • If you want to register only the sound recording (i.e., register a particular recording of a song without registering the music and/or lyrics for that song), you must select “Sound Recording” on the Type of Work screen.  On the Author Created screen check the box for “sound recording.”
  • If you want to register both the musical work and the sound recording (i.e., register the music and/or lyrics for a song and register a particular recording of that song), you must select “Sound Recording” on the Type of Work screen.  On the Author Created screen check the box for “sound recording,” and write “music” and/or “lyrics” in the box marked “Other.”

Note:  If you want to change your initial Type of Work selection from “Sound Recording” to “Work of the Performing Arts” (or vice versa), you should discard this application and start over with a new application.

Can you register a song and a recording of that song with the same application?

A song and the sound recording of it may be registered on one application only if all the author(s) contributed to both works, or the copyright claimant owns all rights in both works through a written transfer of ownership. 

If the musical work and the sound recording were created by different author(s) or if the copyright in the musical work and the recording are owned by different parties, you must file two separate applications:  one application for the music and/or lyrics for the song (using the option for “Work of the Performing Arts”) and one application for the recording of the song (using the option for “Sound Recording”).


Motion Pictures Authorship

What do you want to register?

You should identify the authorship you intend to register by checking one or more of the boxes in the field marked “Author Created.”


  • Entire motion picture may include direction, production, editing, music, script and cinematography.

  • Production refers to the contribution of an individual or entity that plays a direct, creative role in planning, organizing, and controlling the various stages of the creation of a motion picture. An individual producer who manages only the business aspects of a film project (sometimes referred to as the “executive producer”) is not considered an author.

  • Direction refers to the creative contribution of the individual or entity that supervises and directs the entire cast and crew for a motion picture or an audiovisual work, including all technical and artistic aspects of the work.

  • Script/Screenplay is the written text used in the production or performance of the motion picture or other audiovisual work.

  • Cinematography refers to the creative contribution of the individual or entity who composes the shots for a motion picture or other audiovisual work, operates the camera during filming or videotaping, and/or supervises any of the foregoing activities.

  • Editing refers to the creative contribution of the individual or entity who selects the takes and shots from a motion picture or other audiovisual work, and splices them into sequences to achieve continuity and a desired dramatic, comedic, and/or thematic effect.

If these terms do not fully describe the authorship you intend to register, you may provide a more specific description in the field marked “Other.” For example, if the author created an audiovisual work, such as a videogame or other animated 2-D artwork, you may write “audiovisual material.”


Single Serial Issue Authorship

What do you want to register?


You should identify the authorship you intend to register by checking one of the boxes in the field marked “Author Created.”


Collective Work Authorship


Check this box if you only want to register the authorship involved in creating the serial issue as a whole. That is, check this box if you want to register the authorship in the selection, coordination and/or arrangement of a number of separate and independent works appearing within the issue.


Collective Work Authorship and Component Work(s) authored or fully owned by Collective Work Author


You may register the issue as a whole and the component works appearing within the issue (such as articles, photographs, artwork, etc.), if the claimant is the author of or owns the copyright in both the collective work and one or more of the component works, and if the collective work and the component works have not been previously registered or published. To do so, select the box marked “Collective work authorship and component work(s) authored of fully owned by collective work author.”


If the copyright in the individual component works and the issue as a whole are owned by different parties, or if the component works have been previously published or previously registered, you must submit a separate application for each individual work.