for Computer Programs
A “computer program” is a set of statements or instructions to be used directly
or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result.
Extent of Copyright Protection
Copyright protection extends to all the copyrightable expression embodied in
the computer program. Copyright protection is not available for ideas, program
logic, algorithms, systems, methods, concepts, or layouts.
Registering a Copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office
An application for copyright registration contains three essential elements: a
completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable
deposit—that is, a copy or copies of the work being registered and “deposited”
with the Copyright Office.
Here are the options for registering your copyright, beginning with the fastest
and most cost-effective method.
note: Copyright Office fees are subject to change. For current fees, please check
the Copyright Office website at www.copyright.gov, write the Copyright Office, or
call (202) 707-3000.
Option 1: Online Registration
Online registration through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred
way to register basic claims for literary works; visual arts works; performing
arts works, including motion pictures; sound recordings; and single serials.
Advantages of online filing include
• a lower filing fee
• fastest processing time
• online status tracking
• secure payment by credit or debit card, electronic check, or Copyright Office
• the ability to upload certain categories of deposits directly into eCO as electronic
note: You can still register using eCO and save money even if you will submit a
hard-copy deposit, which is required under the mandatory deposit requirements
Copyright Registration for Computer Programs · 2
for published works. The system will prompt you to specify
whether you intend to submit an electronic or a hard-copy
deposit, and it will provide instructions accordingly. Hard-copy
deposits are required for all published works.
Basic claims include (1) a single work; (2) multiple unpublished
works if they are all by the same author(s) and owned
by the same claimant; and (3) multiple published works if
they are all first published together in the same publication
on the same date and owned by the same claimant.
To access eCO, go to the Copyright Office website at www.
copyright.gov and click on electronic Copyright Office.
Option 2: Registration with Fill-In Form CO
The next best option for registering basic claims is the new
fill-in Form CO. Using 2-d barcode scanning technology, the
Office can process these forms much faster and more efficiently
than paper forms completed manually. Simply complete
Form CO on your personal computer, print it out, and
mail it along with a check or money order and your deposit.
To access Form CO, go to the Copyright Office website and
click on Forms. Do not save your filled-out Form CO and
reuse it for another registration. The 2-d barcode it contains
is unique for each work that you register.
note: Make sure your Form CO has a 2-d barcode on each page.
Do not use screen shots to create your Form CO.
Option 3: Registration with Paper Forms
Paper versions of forms are still available. They are not available
on the Copyright Office website; however, staff will send
them to you by postal mail upon request. Remember that
online registration through eCO and fill-in Form CO (see
above) can be used for these types of applications.
Mailing Addresses for Applications Filed on
Paper and for Hard-copy Deposits
Library of Congress
U.S. Copyright Office-TX
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20559-6222
Completing the Application
note: These points do not cover all the required information
on the application. Be sure to refer to the instructions before
completing the application.
Author Created · In the “Author Created” space describe
the copyrightable authorship in the computer program
for which registration is sought. Acceptable statements
include “computer program,” “text of user’s manual and
computer program,” etc. Do not refer to design, physical
form, hardware, or algorithm. Do not describe the program’s
features or functions.
Year of Completion · Give the year of completion and the
exact date of first publication, if any, for the particular version
of the computer program for which registration is sought.
Limitation of Claim · Complete this part of the application
if the computer program contains a substantial amount of
previously published, registered, or public domain material
such as subroutines, modules, textual images, or if the
work was developed using an underlying computer program
or authoring tool. “Material excluded” may state “previous
version.” Typical examples of descriptions of “New material
included” are “computer program” and “editing.” Do not
refer to debugging, error corrections, new functions of the
revised program, or other unregistrable elements.
Computer Programs without Trade Secrets
For published or unpublished computer programs, send one
copy of identifying portions of the program (first 25 and
last 25 pages of source code) reproduced in a form visually
perceptible without the aid of a machine or device, either on
paper or in microform, together with the page or equivalent
unit containing the copyright notice, if any. Online registration
is ideal for computer programs not embodied in a
CD-ROM. The source code may be uploaded electronically,
preferably in PDF format.
For a program less than 50 pages in length, send a visually
perceptible copy of the entire source code. For a revised
version of a program that has been previously published or
previously registered or that is in the public domain, if the
revisions occur throughout the entire program, send the
page containing the copyright notice, if any, and the first
25 and last 25 pages of source code. If the revisions are not
contained in the first 25 and last 25 pages, send any 50 pages
representative of the revised material in the new program,
together with the page or equivalent unit containing the
copyright notice, if any, for the revised version.
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.
Copyright Registration for Computer Programs · 3
Where an applicant is unable or unwilling to deposit
source code, he/she must state in writing that the work as
deposited in object code contains copyrightable authorship.
The Office will then register the work under its rule of doubt
since it has not determined the existence of copyrightable
If a published user’s manual or other printed documentation
accompanies the computer program, deposit one copy
of the user’s manual along with one copy of the identifying
material for the program.
note: Such manuals must generally be mailed rather than
uploaded electronically to the Copyright Office.
For programs written in HyperCard® and other scripted
languages, the script is considered the equivalent of source
code. Thus, the same number of pages of script would be
required as is required for source code. Reproductions of onscreen
text, buttons, and commands are not an appropriate
substitute for this source code deposit. Where a scripted program
contains trade secrets, the deposit of script pages must
meet the requirements below.
note: When a computer program is embodied in a CD-ROM,
ordinarily the entire CD-ROM package must be mailed to the
Copyright Office, including a complete copy of any accompanying
operating software and instructional manual. If registration
is sought for the computer program, the deposit should
also include a printout of the first 25 and last 25 pages of
source code for the program.
Computer Programs Containing Trade Secrets
Where a computer program contains trade secret material,
include a cover letter stating that the claim contains trade
secrets, along with the page containing the copyright notice,
if any. Include a source code deposit as described below. The
source code may be uploaded electronically with the exceptions
Entirely new computer programs · First 25 and last 25
pages of source code with portions containing trade secrets
blocked out; or
First 10 and last 10 pages of source code alone, with no
blocked out portions; or
First 25 and last 25 pages of object code plus any 10 or
more consecutive pages of source code, with no blocked-out
For programs 50 pages or less in length, entire source code
with trade secret portions blocked out.
Revised computer programs · If the revisions are present
in the first 25 and last 25 pages, any one of the four options
above, as appropriate; or
If the revisions are not present in the first 25 and the last
• 20 pages of source code containing the revisions with
no blocked out portions; or
• any 50 pages of source code containing the revisions
with some portions blocked out.
note: Whenever portions of code are blocked out, the following
requirements must be met:
1 the blocked out portions must be proportionately less than the
material remaining; and
2 the visible portion must represent an appreciable amount of
original computer code.
Points to Remember · Each separately published version of a
computer program that contains new, copyrightable authorship
must be registered separately, with a new application and
fee. Registration of the first version may extend to the entire
work if it contains no previously published or registered portions.
Registration of any subsequent version covers only the
new or revised material added to that version. The version
of the work that is deposited should be the same version
described on the application; thus, the title and dates on the
application should correspond with those on the deposit copy.
note: If the version to be registered is no longer available, it
may be possible to register it using a later version under a
grant of special relief. In this case, submit a written request for
special relief to the Copyright Office, Attention: Registration
and Recordation Program. Explain why the required version is
not available and indicate what percentage of the authorship
from the version to be registered remains in the version you
are depositing. Your request will be evaluated upon receipt.
If the deposit material for the computer program has a
copyright notice containing multiple year dates, the Copyright
Office will question whether the particular program is a
revised or derivative version if the “Limitation of Claim” area
of the application has not been completed. If the program
is not a derivative work and if the multiple year dates in the
notice refer to internal revisions or the history of development
of the program, please put that information in a cover letter to
help speed processing.
If the deposit material for the computer program does
not give a printed title and/or version indicator, please add
the title and any indicia that can be used in identifying the
Copyright Registration for Computer Programs · 4
Copyright protection for computer screen displays, including
videogames, has been an issue in the courts for some time.
Courts have differed in their opinions regarding whether
screen displays may be registered separately.
The Copyright Office has consistently believed that a
single registration is sufficient to protect the copyright in
a computer program and related screen displays, including
videogames, without a separate registration for the screen
displays or a specific reference to them on the application for
the computer program. An application may give a general
description in the “Author Created” space, such as “computer
program.” This description will cover any copyrightable
authorship contained in the computer program and screen
displays, regardless of whether identifying material for the
screens is deposited.
A specific claim in the screen displays may be asserted on
the application. In such a case, identifying materials for the
screens must be deposited.
How to Register a Computer Program
and Its Screen Displays
A single registration may be made for a computer program
and its screen displays. When answering the “Type of work
being registered” question, choose the type most appropriate
to the predominant authorship. Because computer programs
are literary works, registration as a “Literary Work” is usually
appropriate. However, if pictorial or graphic authorship predominates,
registration as a “Visual arts work” may be made.
Similarly, if motion picture authorship or audiovisual material
predominate, registration as a “Motion picture/audiovisual
work” may be made.
The registration will extend to any copyrightable screens
generated by the program, regardless of whether identifying
material for the screens is deposited.
Option 1: Answer “computer program” to the “Author
Created” question. In this case, deposit the source code as
described above. Depositing identifying material for screens
Option 2: Answer “computer program, including text of
screen displays,” or “computer program including audiovisual
material” or “computer program including artwork
on screen displays” in the “Other” portion of the “Author
Created” question. In this case, you must deposit identifying
material for the screen displays in addition to the
required source code. Identifying material for the screen
displays should consist of images or printouts clearly revealing
the screens. If using online registration, images of the
screens may be uploaded electronically to the Copyright
Office. For works that are predominantly audiovisual, such
as videogames, ½-inch VHS videotape, CD-ROM, DVD, or
uploading the audiovisual material online (provided the file
is not too large to upload), are acceptable. Note, too, that if
the screens are reproduced in an accompanying manual, the
manual will suffice as identifying material.
The identifying material will be examined for
copyrightability. When the screens are essentially not copyrightable
(e.g., de minimis menu screens, blank forms, or
the like), the application should not refer to screens. The
description of authorship on the application should not refer
to elements such as “menu screens,” “structure, sequence and
organization,” “layout,” “format,” or the like.
note: Regarding websites, registration of a computer program
used in an online work does not automatically cover any
visible or audible copyrightable elements that are generated
by the code. To register those portions of an online work, the
entire copyrightable content must be deposited. It is possible
to register the computer program together with the online
work, but the deposit requirements for both the program and
the online work must be fulfilled. See Circular 66, Copyright
Registration for Online Works, for important information on
the required deposit and how to complete the application
when registering online works.
Effective Date of Registration
A copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright
Office receives all the required elements in acceptable form.
The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application
varies, depending on the amount of material the Office
is receiving. If you apply online for copyright registration,
you will receive an email saying that your application was
If you apply for copyright registration using a paper
application, you will not receive an acknowledgment that
your application has been received (the Office receives more
than 600,000 applications annually), but you can expect:
• a letter or a telephone call from a Copyright Office staff
member if further information is needed or
• a certificate of registration indicating that the work has
been registered, or if the application cannot be accepted,
a letter explaining why it has been rejected.
Copyright Registration for Computer Programs · 5
Requests to have certificates available for pickup in the
Copyright Office or to have certificates sent by Federal
Express or another mail service cannot be honored. If you
want to know the date that the Copyright Office receives
your paper application or hard-copy deposit, send it by registered
or certified mail and request a return receipt.
For Further Information
Circulars, announcements, regulations, certain applications
forms, and other materials are available from the Copyright
Office website at www.copyright.gov.
For general information about copyright, call the Copyright
Public Information Office at (202) 707-3000. Staff members
are on duty from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, eastern time, Monday
through Friday, except federal holidays. Recorded information
is available 24 hours a day. If you want to request paper
application forms or circulars, call the Forms and Publications
Hotline at (202) 707-9100 and leave a recorded message.
By Regular Mail
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20559-6304
Copyright Registration for Computer Programs · 6
U. S. Copyright Office · Library of Congress · 101 Independence Avenue SE · Washington, DC 20559-6000 · www.copyright.gov
circular 61 rev: 05 ⁄ 2009 print: 05 ⁄ 2009 — 6,000 Printed on recycled paper u.s. government printing office: 2009-349-387 ⁄ 80,034
Copyright Registration will cost - $ 20
Public offer - read carefully before registration!
1. The Parties of this Public Offer (paid service agreement), hereinafter referred to as the “Agreement” or “Offer”, are, as follows:
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