What Can I Copyright?

More than your books and MUSIC.

Most people don't realize that copyright law's DEFAULT is to protect their creations. In the United States, if you create an original work that is also "fixed," you automatically get copyright protection for it. You actually don't have to register anything, though there are some significant benefits to registering your copyrighted work. These requirements can be a little complicated, so I will explain them further here.

For something to be considered original, you have to independently create (and not copy) something that has a minimal degree of creativity.  The bar for creativity is very low. The US Copyright Office doesn't delve far into the quality of a product.

Whether something is considered a "work" can be a little more complicated. The law uses the more official-sounding terminology, "work of authorship," to refer to items protected by copyright law. This is defined to include: 

  • literary works;
  • musical works, including any accompanying words;
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  • pantomimes and choreographic works;
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • sound recordings; and
  • architectural works.

This list isn't comprehensive though. You can argue that other things should be placed on the list. For example, computer software and websites don't appear on the list, but they can be copyrighted. On the other hand, copyright law does not protect:

  • ideas,
  • procedures,
  • processes,
  • systems,
  • methods of operation,
  • concepts,
  • principles, or
  • discoveries.

Finally, to be copyrightable, a work must be fixed. Essentially, this means that we have to be able to see, touch, hear, or perceive your work in some way for more than a brief moment. If you blow a bubble with soap and a bubble wand, for example, the bubble isn't going to be copyrightable, because that bubble will probably only last for a short period of time. Things like rap freestyles, if they aren't also recorded or written down, also aren't copyrightable for the same reason.

This basic outline should help you identify where you have copyrights in your work. If you have questions about any of this, please reach out to us.