A copyright can provide valuable legal protection. A copyright is a kind of intellectual property law protection. If your work is copyrighted, it is so from the moment it is created. Registration of the copyright, however, is required if you ever want to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit. Not all original works are eligible for copyright so it is good to investigate what type of works can receive copyright protection.

What Can Be Copyrighted?

In the broadest of terms, a copyright protected original works of authorship. Copyright protection is available for creative works that are “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” This means that while facts, ideas, systems, and methods of operation are not copyright eligible, certain expressions of these things may be. More specific examples of what can be copyrighted include:

  • Literary works: Poetry, novels, books, essays, speeches
  • Dramatic works: Movies, scripts, screenplays, operas
  • Musical works: Musical scores, songs, sound recordings, sheet music and accompanying words
  • Artistic works: Paintings, photographs, sketches, drawings, cartoons, architectural drawings, sculptures
  • Technological works: Websites, computer software, video games
  • Derivative works: work based on already existing work(s)
  • The Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990 allows for actual buildings to be copyrighted.
  • The Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984 allows for copyright protection of semiconductor chip designs.
  • The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act of 1998 allows for copyright protection of boat designs.

This list is not exhaustive of what can actually be protected by a copyright. There are many more types of original works of authorships that can be copyrighted. What cannot be copyrighted, however, is:

  • An idea itself, not an expression of the idea (this goes the same for concepts and principles)
  • Facts
  • Works without a fixed tangible form of expression
  • Words and phrases
  • Familiar symbols 
  • A list of ingredients (a recipe with directions, however, may be copyrighted)
  • Works of “common property” (this includes standard tools of measurement such as a calendar, ruler, or height and weight chart)
  • Works in the public domain that have an expired copyright

While some things may not be eligible for copyright protection, they may be eligible for other types of legal protections. For instance, a short phrase or a slogan may not qualify for copyright protection, but you may be able to obtain a trademark or service mark to gain legal protections for these types of intellectual property.

In addition to being familiar with what can be copyrighted, it is also important to note who can actually obtain a copyright. Only the original creator of the work or an authorized agent may obtain a copyright. You may not obtain a copyright on someone else’s work.

New York City Copyright Attorney

Copyright exists for a reason. It is a legal means to protect your intellectual property. If you believe someone has infringed upon those Rights, Attorney Thomas M. Lancia is here to fight for you. Copyright law presents complex issues in often highly contentious situations. Attorney Lancia has the knowledge base and experience to navigate these rough waters. Contact Attorney Lancia today.