What is a copyright and what does it protect?

Copyright protects works such as poetry, movies, video games, videos, DVDs, plays, paintings, sheet music, recorded music performances, novels, software code, sculptures, photographs, choreography, and architectural designs.

To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression." This means that work must exist in some physical form for at least some period of time, no matter how brief. Virtually any form of expression will qualify as a tangible medium, including a computer's random access memory (RAM), the recording media that capture all radio and television broadcasts, and the scribbled notes on the back of an envelope that contain the basis for an impromptu speech.

In addition, the work must be original, independently created by the author. It doesn't matter if an author's creation is similar to existing works, or even if it is arguably lacking in quality, ingenuity, or aesthetic merit. As long as the author toils without copying from someone else, the results are protected by copyright.

Finally, to receive copyright protection, a work must be the result of at least some creative effort on the part of its author. There is no hard and fast rule as to how much creativity is enough.

Copyright shelters only fixed, original, and creative expression, not the ideas or facts upon which the expression is based. Allowing authors to monopolize their ideas would thwart the underlying purpose of copyright law, which is to encourage people to create new work.

For similar reasons, copyright does not protect facts-whether scientific, historical, biographical, or news of the day. Any facts that an author discovers in the course of research are in the public domain, free to all.

Facts are not protected even if the author spends considerable time and effort discovering things that were previously unknown.

Ask an Attorney

Feel free to ask a legal questions that you would like answered. Your question will go directly and only to Deskin Law Firm, a professional law corporation. Deskin Law Firm will contact you directly to discuss your situation, usually via telephone, so please provide multiple ways to reach you via phone. Your situation will be kept confidential. There is no cost to discuss your situation and no attorney-client relationship is created by simply filling out the form and sending it.

Please type your first and last name.

Please type your area code and phone number.

To most effectively be able to reach you, please type another phone number where we may be able to reach you.

Please type the city and state (and country if outside the USA) that you live in.

Please type your email address and check it to make sure it is correct.

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
10 + 9 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.