The Copyright Office circular 56, seemingly quoting the House report for the Copyright Act of 1976, says "Sound recordings captured by purely mechanical means without originality of any kind also lack a sufficient amount of authorship to warrant copyright protection". I'm aware of the Monkey Selfie Copyright Dispute, and so of course one could infer something from that from the visual domain. But are there any sound recording cases where a legal decision-maker is trying to actually apply that test to some concrete facts? Putting "purely mechanical means without originality of any kind" into Google Scholar brings up nix.

1 Answer 1


We are talking about the Threshold of Originality here. Let's look at what would constitute such a recording:

It needs to be made purely automatic. It needs to not care for any original choices. As a result, such a recording is utilitarian. Like security camera footage or service hotline calls.

The Copyright Office deems such material unregisterable.

"in order to be entitled to copyright registration, a work must be the product of human authorship. Works produced by mechanical processes or random selection without any contribution by a human author are not registrable."

I have found a case: the defense in Southwest Casino Hotel Corp. v. Flyingman centered around the claim that CCTV footage would not be copyrightable.

  • 2
    Nice find! Unfortunately it looks like the copyright claims in that case ended up being dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction stemming from a failure to go through the process of attempting to register the copyright, so it didn't get a ruling on the merits.
    – Ryan M
    Feb 6, 2021 at 11:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .