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Man with hands on his waist standing in front of images surrounding the sentence, "Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects creative works."
Our new Learning Engine video explains what copyright protects.

New Learning Edge Series Video: What Is Copyright?

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In the short time I’ve been part of the U.S. Copyright Office, I’ve had several conversations that follow this same general scenario: “You work for the Copyright Office? Isn’t that where every copyright in America is registered? Should I go there with my idea that I want to protect? Will they take a family recipe?” I’ve been most surprised by how often I get asked that last question.

The next time I have this conversation, I can point people to a new video in the Copyright Office’s Learning Engine YouTube series. It asks a deceptively simple question that is important to answer correctly: what is copyright? If you do not know what copyright is, you’ll learn what it does and does not protect, and what rights you have.

Family trip photos, like this one the blog author and his wife took in Italy, meet the bar for copyright.

Before coming to work for the Copyright Office, I was like the hypothetical person outlined in the introduction of the video. I thought copyright was limited to the copyright symbol (©) I saw on some items. Now I know that I am a copyright holder and have been one for years, just like most everyone else. Every time I’ve taken a picture while on a trip, I was creating something that fits the requirements for copyright protection. So, too, does that old daily journal I kept for a while back in sixth grade. I feel a greater sense of pride in these works because they meet the bar for copyright. They all are creative works of free expression fixed in a tangible form.

If you are wondering about whether recipes are covered by copyright, unfortunately, you cannot register the ingredients themselves. However, if you wrote down instructions, created a cookbook with the recipe, explained the history of the recipe, or recounted your memories of cooking the food with your friends and family, you may have the basis for something that could be registered.

Watch the Learning Engine video, What is Copyright, on our YouTube channel to learn more about copyright and find out which of your works could be registered. Share it with your friends so they can learn, too. Don’t forget to subscribe so you will be notified when we add more useful videos like this one in the future.

Comments (4)

  1. I watched the video is I found it very imformative and useful for many young songwriters like me.

    I would like to find out if I can post this video on my website ( to inform our followers.

    To whom should we request for permission to make it available on our website.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Respectfully yours,

    Jaime B Quilala

    • Please share! Works created by employees of the U.S. government are not protected by copyright and are free to share, as detailed in Copyright Law of the United States. The YouTube video has a share button that will provide the embed code for your website.

  2. I watched the video and fouind it very informative and would like to post it on our website.

    To whom should we request for permission to make it available as a source of information to our contacts.

    Thank you for your kind attention and hoping to hear from you the soonest.

    Respectfully yours,

    Jaime B Quilala

  3. I want to review & update my knowledgeh

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