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Works Protected by Copyrights

A copyright gives certain exclusive rights to persons who create original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Copyrightable works include the following categories:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural plans, drawings and actual buildings

These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, the code used to create computer programs may be registered as a "literary work." Maps and architectural plans may be registered as "pictorial, graphic and sculptural works." A dance could be registered as both a choreographic work (if written down or otherwise recorded) and as an audiovisual work (if filmed).

To be protected by copyright, the work must be more than an idea. It must be fixed in a "tangible form of expression." This means the work must be written or otherwise recorded. This is because a copyright does not protect an idea or plan: it protects the expression of that idea or plan.

In addition, copyrightable work must be original. It must not be copied from someone else and must contain a minimal level of creativity on the part of the author. Facts, well-known phrases and lists of names or ingredients, in and of themselves, are not copyrightable. However, if these items are organized or expressed in an original manner, then a copyright would protect that organization or expression, although not the actual facts or lists contained. In other words, copyright protection extends only to an author's original, creative contribution to a work.


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