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Application Process

Which form should I use?

Different forms are used to register different types of works as will be discussed in further detail below. In general for:

Type of WorkForm
Literary Works and Computer Programs:Form TX
Performing Arts: Form PA
Single Issue Serials/Periodicals:Form SE
Group of Issues of Serials/Periodicals:Form SE/Group
Group of Daily Newspapers or Newsletters:Form G/DN
Sound Recordings:Form SR
Visual Arts:Form VA

When should I use Form TX?

Form TX is used to register literary works and computer programs. Literary works may be published or unpublished and include nondramatic textual works with or without illustrations. Computer programs and databases also are considered literary works.

Literary works include:

  • fiction
  • nonfiction
  • manuscripts
  • poetry
  • contributions to collective works
  • compilations of data or other literary subject matter
  • dissertations
  • theses
  • reports
  • speeches
  • bound or loose-leaf volumes
  • secure tests
  • pamphlets
  • brochures
  • textbooks
  • online works
  • reference works
  • directories
  • catalogs
  • advertising copy
  • single pages of text
  • tracts
  • games
  • automated databases
  • computer programs/software

When should I use Form SE?

Form SE is used for serial works such as periodicals, newspapers, magazines or similar works. Serial works are issued or intended to be issued in successive parts bearing numerical or chronological designations and are intended to be continued indefinitely.

Serial works include:

  • periodicals
  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • bulletins
  • newsletters
  • annuals
  • journals
  • proceedings of societies

There is also a Short Form SE that may be use for one issue of a serial if certain conditions are met:

  • the claim is in a collective work;
  • the work is an essentially all new collective work or serial issue;
  • the author is a citizen or domiciliary of the United States;
  • the work is a work made for hire;
  • the author and claimant are the same person or organization; and
  • the work is first published in the United States.

When should I use Form SE/Group?

Form SE/Group is limited to issues of serials first published on or after Jan. 7, 1991, at intervals of a week or longer within a three-month period during the same calendar year.

Form SE/GROUP should be used only if all of the following apply:

  • The claim to copyright is in the collective work.
  • The works are all new collective works or issues.
  • Each issue is a work made for hire.
  • The author and claimant are the same person or organization for all the issues.
  • The serial is published at intervals of 1 week or longer.
  • All issues in the group are published within a 3-month period.
  • Each issue was created no more than 1 year prior to the date of publication of that issue.
  • All issues in the group were published within the same calendar year.
  • At least two issues are included on each group application.
  • Otherwise, register each issue separately using the standard Form SE or Short Form SE.

When should I use Form G/DN?

Form G/DN is used to register a group of newspaper or newsletter issues. A group of newspaper issues may be registered on Form G/DN if all the following apply:

  • The work is a daily newspaper.
  • The claim includes all issue dates within the calendar month within the same year.
  • The applicant submits a complete month’s issues in microfilm form, unless specifically exempted.
  • Each issue essentially is an all-new collective work.
  • The work is a "work made for hire."
  • The author and claimant are the same person or organization.
  • The application is filed within 3 months after the last publication date included in the group.

A group of newsletter issues may be registered on Form G/DN if all the following apply:2

  • The work is a "work made for hire," and the author and claimant are the same person or organization.
  • Each issue is an essentially all new collective work or all new issue that has not been published before.
  • The application is filed within 3 months after the last publication date included in the group.
  • The claim includes two or more issues within a single calendar month within the same year.
  • All issues in the group have been first published on or after July 1, 1999.
  • The applicant submits one complete copy of each issue in the group with the application. The applicant must also provide one microfilm copy or up to two free subscriptions, only if specifically requested by the Copyright Acquisitions Division.

When should I use Form PA?

Form PA is used to register performing arts works; performing arts works are those intended to be "performed" directly before an audience or indirectly "by means of any device or process."

Performing arts works include:

  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, such as scripts, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works

There is also a Short Form PA that may be used if certain conditions are met: 1) the registrant is the only author and copyright owner of the work; 2) the work was not made for hire; 3) the work is completely new (does not contain a substantial amount of material that has been previously published or registered or is in the public domain); and 4) the work is not a motion picture or other audiovisual work.

Otherwise, register each issue separately using the standard Form PA.

When should I use Form SR?

Form SR is used for sound recordings that are "works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds, but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work." Common examples include recordings of music, drama or lectures.

Copyright in a sound recording protects the particular series of sounds that are "fixed" (embodied in a recording) against unauthorized reproduction and revision, unauthorized distribution of phonorecords containing those sounds and certain unauthorized performances by means of a digital audio transmission. The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 created a new limited performance right for certain digital transmissions of sound recordings.

Generally, copyright protection extends to two elements in a sound recording: 1) the performance and 2) the production or engineering of the sound recording.

A sound recording is not the same as a phonorecord. A phonorecord is the physical object in which works of authorship are embodied. The word "phonorecord" includes cassette tapes, CDs, LPs, 45 rpm disks as well as other formats.

So, what is the difference between Form PA for Performing Arts and Form SR for Sound Recordings?

Although both forms are for registering copyrightable works that may be embodied in a recording, there is a difference in these two types of works. Form PA is used for the registration of music and/or lyrics (as well as other works of the performing arts), even if the song is on a cassette. Form SR is used for registering the performance and production of a particular recording of sounds.

When should I use Form VA?

Form VA is used for visual art works that are pictorial, graphic or sculptural works, including two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic and applied art. Some architectural works also qualify as visual arts works. Also, the design elements of "useful articles," e.g., furniture and appliances, may be registered using Form VA.

Visual art works include:

  • advertisements, commercial prints, labels
  • artificial flowers and plants
  • artwork applied to clothing or to other useful articles
  • bumper stickers, decals, stickers
  • cartographic works, such as maps, globes, relief models
  • cartoons, comic strips
  • collages
  • dolls, toys
  • drawings, paintings, murals
  • enamel works
  • fabric, floor and wall covering designs
  • games, puzzles
  • greeting cards, postcards, stationery
  • holograms, computer and laser artwork
  • jewelry designs
  • models
  • mosaics
  • needlework and craft kits
  • original prints, such as engravings, etchings, serigraphs, silk screen prints, woodblock prints
  • patterns for sewing, knitting, crochet, needlework
  • photographs, photomontages
  • posters
  • record jacket artwork or photography
  • relief and intaglio prints
  • reproductions, such as lithographs, collotypes
  • sculpture, such as carvings, ceramics, figurines, maquettes, molds, relief sculptures
  • stained glass designs
  • stencils, cut-outs
  • technical drawings, architectural drawings or plans, blueprints, diagrams, mechanical drawings
  • weaving designs, lace designs, tapestries

An architectural work may be entitled to copyright protection where it is an original design of a building embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans or drawings. The work includes the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design but does not include individual standard features or design elements that are functionally required.

What about using Form VA for "useful articles"?

A "useful article" is an object having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information.

EXAMPLE: Examples of useful articles are clothing, furniture, machinery, dinnerware and lighting fixtures.

An article that is normally part of a useful article may itself be a useful article, for example, an ornamental wheel cover on a vehicle.

There is a fine line between copyright and patent protection when it comes to "useful articles." Copyright does not protect the mechanical or utilitarian aspects of such works of craftsmanship. It may, however, protect any pictorial, graphic or sculptural authorship that can be identified separately from the utilitarian aspects of an object. Thus, a useful article may have both copyrightable and uncopyrightable features. However, some designs of useful articles may qualify for protection under the federal patent law.

EXAMPLE: A carving on the back of a chair or a floral relief design on silver flatware could be protected by copyright, but the design of the chair or flatware itself could not.

Copyright in a work that portrays a useful article extends only to the artistic expression of the author of the pictorial, graphic or sculptural work. It does not extend to the design of the article that is portrayed.

EXAMPLE: A drawing or photograph of an automobile or a dress design may be copyrighted, but that does not give the artist or photographer the exclusive right to make automobiles or dresses of the same design.