What Is Copyright, and What Does It Cover?

Why Copyright?

  • It’s the law
  • It’s the right thing to do
  • It gives you rights as well as obligations

What Is Covered by Copyright

In the beginning, copyright law was intended to cover only books. During the 19th century, the law was expanded to include maps, charts, engravings, prints,  musical compositions, dramatic works, photographs, paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Motion pictures, computer programs, sound recordings, dance, and architectural works became protected by copyright during the 20th century.

Copyright protections fall under Title 17 of the United States Code and covers “original works of authorship.”

So what makes a work original?

  1. Fixity: not the idea but the fixed expression or the manifestation of the idea
  2. Originality
  3. Minimal creativity

What Is NOT Covered by Copyright

  • Works for which the copyright has expired
  • Works that federal government employees produced within the scope of their employment
  • Works clearly and explicitly donated to the public domain
  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or spontaneous ¬†speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship (for example, standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)