Rule of Doubt

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The Rule of Doubt is a U.S. Copyright Office rule that presumptively accepts copyright registration of a claim containing software object code, even though the Office cannot verify whether the software object code contains copyrightable work. The Copyright Office Compendium on Examination Practices Chapter 600 states that the Rule of Doubt applies when the registration specialist is simply unable to examine the code to determine whether it contains copyrightable work. Put another way, since computer code is complicated and registration specialists may not be able to determine whether it is copyrightable, if the party seeking registration attests that the code is copyrightable, then the Copyright Office will assume that the code is copyrightable and will register the claim. 37 C.F.R. § 202.20(c)(2)(vii)(B) specifies that this could occur when an application seeks to copyright solely object code, and not source code. The Compendium on Examination Practices Chapter 1500 also allows the Rule of Doubt to apply when an applicant redacts part of their claim to protect a trade secret. When the Office issues a copyright under the Rule of Doubt, it will add an annotation to the certificate of registration and the online copyright public record indicating that the copyright was registered with the Rule of Doubt

[Last updated in April of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team