What Is Copyright?
What Can Be Copyrighted?
books, articles, photographs, poems, plays, songs, and more
"...including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works" (U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Basics).
Works must be:
Fixed - that is, fixed in a tangible medium, like a piece of paper or video recording: an idea alone cannot be copyrighted.
Original - though it is not necessary for a work to be completely original: existing works may be combined, adapted, or transformed in new ways that make them eligible for copyright protection.
Minimally creative - and only a slight degree of creativity is all that is required to be eligible for protection.
What Can't Be Copyrighted?
forms, facts, names, slogans, words, ideas, plus certain types of works, such as:
- Works in the public domain
- Government publications, including judicial opinions; public ordinances; administrative rulings; data and statistics
- Works created by federal government employees as part of their official responsibilities
- Works for which copyright wasn't obtained or for which copyright has expired
Rights Granted to Copyright holders
- Reproduction - the right to make copies of the work
- Distribution - the right to sell or otherwise distribute copies of the work
- Adaptation - the right to prepare new, derivative, works based on the protected work
- Performance and display - the right to perform or display the work (such as a stage play, movie, or painting) in public
For Further Information
- United States Copyright Office (Library of Congress): Provides brochures, registration forms and instructions; allows a search of the copyright records.
- Current Awareness: Copyright and Fair Use - Read recent articles about copyright pulled from our online databases. Change the display to Full View to access links to full text.