Copyrights: What is or can be protected by copyright law?

Learn more about copyrights and what types of creations are protected under copyright law from a copyright, intellectual property, business, entertainment and sports attorney.


By Zach Scott Gainous, Esq.


August 6 , 2019


Copyright law protects many creations, including music.

If you're a creator of entertainment, media, products, or art, understanding what a copyright is and what you can and cannot copyright is important. As a copyright and intellectual property attorney, I regularly advise clients on what types creative works can be protected by copyright law.


Copyright Does Not Protect Ideas


In understanding what a copyright is and what can be protected by copyright law, we have to also understand what is not protected under copyright law. Copyright law does not protect ideas. In other words, you cannot copyright or protect an idea by itself. For example, the idea of a love song, romance novel, or a romantic comedy film or movie are not protected by copyright.


Copyright Lawyer Zach Scott Gainous

However, copyright law protects the unique and original expression of ideas when they're fixed in a tangible medium. In other words, the idea alone will not be granted copyright protection, but the unique and original expression of the idea, when it's in a fixed and tangible medium or format, will be protected.


Copyrights Must be Fixed in a Tangible Medium


Fixed in a tangible medium is a legal term of art under the law that is a requirement for a creative work to receive copyright protection. Fixed in a tangible medium is a requirement that the creative work can be perceived, reproduced, read, or otherwise communicated, witnessed, observed, or experienced. This typically includes physical or digital formats or methods of transmission or experience.


What is not protected by copyright?


In addition to creations that are not fixed in a tangible medium, and mere ideas, there are other things that cannot be granted copyright protection. Words, short phrases, titles, names, symbols, and slogans cannot be copyrighted, however they may be eligible for trademark protection. Facts, data, persons, processes, systems, methods, and anything with functionality cannot have copyright protection, but functionality or processes may be eligible for patent protection. Any creative work that is not original or lacks even a slight degree of creativity is also not eligible for copyright protection.


So what can be Copyrighted?


There are several categories of creative works that qualify for copyright protection. First are literary works, including fiction and non-fiction books, short stories, articles, poems or poetry, and blogs, among other things. Second are musical compositions, with or without lyrics. Third are pictorial and graphic works, including photographs, drawings, paintings, printings, computer generated graphics and images, maps, and technical drawings. Fourth are sound recordings, including recordings of musical compositions or songs, events, presentations, speeches, or any other sound recording. Next are motion pictures and audio visual works, from home movies, animated films, to television shows and major studio theatrical released movies, video games, or any work that consists of a series of related images that are intended to be shown together with accompanying sound recordings through the use of a machine or device. Copyright also protects dramatic works, including plays, screenplays, or other scripts. Pantomime or choreographic works are also protected by copyright law. Finally, architectural works also fall under copyright protection.


If you want any additional information on copyrights or intellectual property including what is or is not protected by copyright law, or if you need legal assistance or advice with your own copyrights, please contact us at The Fruitful Firm anytime.

Zach Scott Gainous is a copyright and intellectual property attorney in Nashville, and the founder and managing attorney of Nashville copyright law firm The Fruitful Firm. Zach regularly provides legal expertise, advice and representation to clients across many industries or professions, including music, entertainment, sports, media, technology, and more.

Disclaimer: This article or post is not and should not be considered or used as a substitute for legal advice or the hiring of an attorney. You should always carefully seek out legal advice and representation from a qualified attorney to assist you with your legal matters and issues.

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