Can you give me examples of works that qualify for copyright protection?

Copyright protection is available for original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. What this means is the person seeking copyright protection must be the original author and he or she has to write, publish or record the idea in a way that can be reproduced.

Scope of Copyright Protection

Some examples of works eligible for copyright protection are:

  • Literary, musical, graphic, and sculptural works;
  • Motion pictures and other audio-visual works;
  • Derivatives of protected works, such as a sequel (i.e. the Star Wars movies);
  • Original compilations of facts, such as a field guide.

This means that an author of fiction and someone who writes the equivalent of a Lonely Planet travel guide can copyright their work, as long as it is original.

Works lacking in originality are not eligible for copyright protection. This includes: works and publications from the United States government, facts and unoriginal collections of facts, like a telephone directory and items in the public domain. This last one can be tricky, but a simple example of an item in the public domain is a recipe. This is why five different chefs can all publish apple pie recipes. For those interested in computer related copyrights, freeware cannot be copyrighted. Shareware and original software can be protected.

Copyright Holder’s Rights

While it is advisable to register your copyright, this is not necessary. The moment a work is fixed in a tangible medium, it is protected under copyright law. As a copyright holder, you have the exclusive right to copy, distribute, display and perform your work. Anyone wanting to use a copyrighted work has to get permission. Penalties for unauthorized use can include monetary damages.

Additional Copyright Protection Information

The government has a designated office for registering and protecting copyrights. The U.S. Copyright Office (http://www.copyright.gov/) has information on registering, protecting and enforcing copyrights. The office also publishes materials explaining copyright law.