What is a Copyright?

What Kinds of Things are Protected by Copyrights?

A copyright is a form of protection provided to the creators of “original works of authorship.”  This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual works.  These can be published or unpublished works.  And they can be protectable copyrights as long as they’re fixed in a tangible medium.  For example, if you sing a song, it’s not copyrightable unless you record it. 

Now, do copyrights provide you with protection or exclusivity over your ideas?  No.  Copyright laws give you exclusive rights to the expression of your ideas; to the visual, or written, or audio embodiment of your ideas.  Copyrights protect the way you express your idea, as opposed to the creative or inventive idea itself. If you publish an article describing how to make your newest invention, a copyright cannot be used to prevent people from making, using, or selling your invention, but it can be used to prevent others from copying your article.

So, what does a copyright give you the right to do?  A copyright gives you the exclusive right to reproduce your material, prepare derivative works based upon your material, distribute copies by sale or otherwise, and publicly display or perform the work.  Put another way, in a more practical way, your copyright gives you the right to prevent other people from doing those things.

What kinds of things do copyrights protect? Again, copyrights do not protect ideas, but instead protect the oral, written, or visual expression of those ideas. These include original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, images, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyrights do not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although they may protect the way these works are expressed. For example, if you have a cook book, your copyright would not prevent others from making the recipes in the book, but it could prevent others from copying the book itself.  So, how does this apply to your business?  Well, copyrights protect software code, white papers, marketing material, graphic images used in packaging and promotions, videos, blogs, web pages, and other material that can give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  

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