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I want to register a software package with the US copyright office but it is not new. There are many versions. What versions should I register? Should I register the very first version as the original work and then select versions as derived works?

For example, let's say there are versions like:

1.0.0
1.0.1
1.0.2
...
1.0.88
1.1.0
1.1.1
...
1.1.46
2.0.0
2.0.1
...
2.0.26 (current)

and so on. Should I register 1.0.0 as the original work and the current version (2.0.26) as a derived work for a total of only two versions?

What if I want to file suit for infringement regarding 1.1.22? Is that version covered if I only register 1.0.0 and 2.0.26 in my example?

Note: I know this question was asked before to some extent but it was not actually answered.

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You may register any version or set of versions you please. If all versions are clearly derived from the earliest, you might want to be sure to register that version, as any copying of a derivative version would also infringe the copyright on that one. It might also be wise to register whatever version you think is most likely to be the subject of any copying, probably the most popular or most widely distributed version.

I think that you can, however, register all existing versions as a set of related works for a single fee, and this might be the best way to go. In future you could register any new versions that include significant new aspects that you want to be sure are protected. The only downside to registering every version is the fees.

If a specific unregistered version is infringed later, you can always register that version after the fact, and claim statutory damages (perhaps) on the infringement of the base version.

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  • Note that registering a set of works is only applicable to certain types of works that does not include software.
    – squarewav
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 1:53
  • My latest understanding is that it is not critical to register software versions that do not contain fundamental changes in the code. If a copyright expert witness reviews the code, they should consider versions that do not have substantial changes to be similar enough to be equally applicable to a particular claim of infringement. IANAL.
    – squarewav
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 1:57
  • I don't see how any copyright infringement of a later version is necessarily one of an earlier verison. If I register for copyright a "Hello happy wonderfully awesome world" program, and then later extend its functionality into a full fledged application suite, and someone pirates a version with the startup message removed, what portion of the pirated program would be in any meaningful sense a "derived work" of the registered version?
    – supercat
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 20:31

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