It’s safe to assume that at some point most, if not all, of us have read or seen something so similar to an idea we’ve thought up that we exclaim, “Hey! That’s my idea!”
If an idea is fixed in a tangible form and demonstrates a spark of creativity, it could be protected by copyright.
While it’s impossible to protect an idea alone, you can protect the creative expression of an idea under copyright. But what does that mean exactly? Basically, if an idea is fixed in a tangible form and demonstrates a spark of creativity, it could be protected by copyright. The most common examples of works that can be protected by copyright include literature, music, and visual art. However, copyright protection extends much further, to things you may not have thought of before. How many creative works from the list below would you have guessed could be protected by copyright?
- Video Games. Video games can be registered as computer programs—more on that here.
- Foreign Works and Translations. These types of works are protected through reciprocal treaties, like the Berne Convention.
- Computer Software. It is written in a language, although not one read by many humans. The U.S. Copyright Office published a report on the topic in 2016.
- Selfies. Selfies can be registered as photographs. In fact, up to 750 photographs can be registered on one application, but you must select the designation for group registration.
- Diaries. Diaries can be registered as works of literature. Here’s hoping you never find mine, but if I want to, I can register it as a literary work.
- Costumes. Clothing designs may be eligible for copyright protection if they demonstrate a degree of creativity. Theatrical costumes may fall into this category. They would be registered as works of visual art.
- Houses. Houses may also be registered as works of visual art. Our dream house would be right next to the Copyright Office.
- Toys. Many, many toys are registered for copyright protection with the Copyright Office. The three-dimensional ones, for example, can be registered as works of visual art.
- Websites. Bet you never thought of that one! But, websites are creative works and may be eligible for copyright protection as well. They can be registered as other digital content.
- Speeches. In fact, some of our country’s most famous speeches have been registered with the Copyright Office as literary works.
Check out our YouTube channel for more on your rights under copyright law.
As you can see, copyright protection for creative works is broad! So the next time you find yourself saying, “Hey, that’s my idea!” it’s worth thinking about whether it might be protected under copyright. Want more examples of what to do next time you have a great idea? Check out our YouTube channel and subscribe for future content!
As the holiday season approaches, consumers purchase many games as gifts. Of all the games I’ve played, Bingo stands out as a favorite. Bingo has a long history—as a game and as source for many works registered with the Copyright Office. As a teenager growing up in Pittsburgh, I volunteered at my church’s weekly Bingo […]
A new Copyright Office video details how you can share material you find on internet without infringing on other’s copyright.
The U.S. Copyright Office’s Learning Engine YouTube series will instruct viewers on copyright and the Copyright Office.
Today we celebrate the forty-sixth anniversary of Barbara Ringer’s appointment as the first female Register of Copyrights. While her tenure was long before my time in the Copyright Office, I’m in awe of her dedication to intellectual property law and especially to equality and diversity in the workplace. Ringer earned her law degree and joined […]
The U.S. Copyright Office released a new tool that will help remitters catch errors in their electronic title lists before submission.
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?” […]
The following is a guest post by Robert J. Kasunic, Associate Register of Copyrights and director of Registration Policy & Practice. At the beginning of October, the Copyright Office updated our Registration Processing Times and FAQ, found on our registration portal, to reflect significant decreases in the time it takes us to review copyright registration […]
Learn more about the connection between Edgar Allan Poe and copyright at the Copyright Matters event “Quoth the Raven: Edgar Allan Poe & Derivative Works.” As we approach October, thoughts often turn to colorful foliage, cozy hoodies, and pumpkin spice everything. Some thoughts also drift toward the spooky season, bringing to mind scary stories and […]
Let’s talk about fees. Not everyone’s favorite topic, I’ll admit, but it’s something the Copyright Office could not operate without. Yesterday, the Copyright Office delivered our Fee Schedule and Analysis to Congress. Every three to five years, the Office engages in an in-depth study of our fees to determine whether to adjust them. To be […]