Question and Answer

What types of works does copyright law cover?

Under U.S. Copyright law, a work is copyrightable if it is:

  • Original (minimally creative)
  • Fixed (written down, recorded, or saved in some fashion)
  • Not a type of work that is excluded from copyright protection

Examples of works protected by copyright are:

  • Literary Works
  • Computer software
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (e.g. paintings, drawings, carvings, photographs, clothing designs)
  • Architectural works (buildings as well as blueprints, drawings, diagrams, models)
  • Sound recordings (songs, music, spoken word, sounds, other recordings)
  • Audiovisual works (movies, animation, TV programs, videogames)
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Dramatic works and accompanying music (plays and musicals)

Examples of works excluded from copyright protection:

  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible medium of expression
  • Titles, names, short phrases and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries or devices,
  • Works that consist entirely of information that are natural or self-evident facts, containing no original authorship (such as a phone book or standard calendar)
  • Works created by the U.S. Government
  • Works for which copyright has expired (works in the public domain)

Please note that some works excluded from copyright protection (such as procedures or devices) may be protected by other forms of intellectual property protection such as patents and trademarks.

Learn more

See our Copyright resource guide.


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