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What Types of Works does a Copyright Protect?


A copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects works of authorship. Copyrights provide the author of the work with protection from unauthorized sales, distribution, copying, and sales of their work. They do not protect the holder of the work, but only the person legally entitled to the rights. This will be the author or any person the author has assigned the rights to the work. In order to register for a copyright you must be the holder of the rights. The Library of Congress will not accept applications from third parties.

These applications include: art, drama, music, and literature. Examples of copyrightable works include: songs, lyrics, movies, dramatic performances, scripts, novels, collections of short stories, poetry, computer software, and the contents of a website. All of these works are the physical expression of a person’s creative brainpower.

What types of works are not protected by copyrights? Abstract ideas that are never produced in a physical form, facts, domain names, systems, and methods of use are not copyrightable. But, a copyright CAN protect the arrangement or expression of these things in a physical form. For example, mathematical equations are not copyrightable, but a book containing those equations can be protected under copyright.  Brand names, company names, band names, slogans, and logos are also not copyrightable as these are covered by Trademark.

People often wish to know if they can copyright their particular recipes. If the recipe is merely a list of ingredients, then the recipe cannot be copyright because it is just a listing of facts/items. But, if the recipe includes descriptions of how to combine the ingredients, along with any necessary narrative, it can be copyrighted. Recipe collections, such as cook books, are also protectable because they are a physical arrangement of the creative works.

Because copyrights are creative works in physical form, they are most commonly used by artists, architects, and software designers. Writes, musicians, painters, and website developers alike all utilize copyrights to protect their art from persons who would copy and distribute the work for their own profit. If you have written a book, taken photographs, painted a portrait, produced a musical demo, written a piece of software, or created any other type of artistic work, a copyright might be the right choice for you. You should consult an attorney prior to publishing your work if at all possible, to make sure you have the protection best suited to your needs. 

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