Last week, the U.S. Copyright Office announced the release of a public draft of the third edition of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, the administrative manual for the Register of Copyrights. A significant achievement spanning over 1200 pages, this is the first major revision in decades. Unlike prior editions, which served primarily as an internal guide to Copyright Office staff, this edition was drafted with an eye towards also serving “as a guidebook for authors, copyright licensees, practitioners, scholars, the courts and members of the general public.”
The Compendium contains sections on both the copyright registration process and substantive law, with full chapters on specific types of work (literary works, performing arts, website content, etc.). The content of this edition is being discussed a little more broadly than one might have expected, because Chapter 306 states that a “photograph taken by a monkey” cannot be registered. Although the “human authorship” requirement is nothing new — the prior edition was just as explicit on the subject of animal authorship — this provision has been interpreted as a response to the “monkey selfie” controversy over photographs taken by David Slater (or by David Slater’s “borrowed” camera, depending on your point of view).
The full public draft is available here. It will remain in draft form pending final review and implementation, and will take effect on or about December 15, 2014. It is intended to be a “living electronic document,” with the official version housed on the U.S. Copyright Office website, and with regular revisions to reflect changes in the law. Although the Compendium does not have the force of law, it may have persuasive value, and past editions have been cited in numerous copyright cases.