|What Does Copyright Protect?
What does copyright protect?
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship
including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels,
movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect
facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way
these things are expressed. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section "What
Works Are Protected."
Can I copyright my website?
The original authorship appearing on a website may be protected by copyright.
This includes writings, artwork, photographs, and other forms of authorship protected
by copyright. Procedures for registering the contents of a website may be found
in Circular 66, Copyright
Registration for Online Works.
Can I copyright my domain name?
Copyright law does not protect domain names. The Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization
that has assumed the responsibility for domain name system management, administers
the assignation of domain names through accredited registers.
How do I protect my recipe?
A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However,
where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in
the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes
as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection. Note that if
you have secret ingredients to a recipe that you do not wish to be revealed,
you should not submit your recipe for registration, because applications and
deposit copies are public records. See FL 122, Recipes.
Can I copyright the name of my band?
No. Names are not protected by copyright law. Some names may be protected under
trademark law. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199,
for further information.
How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?
Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some
cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199,
for further information. However, copyright protection may be available for logo
artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic
logo may also be protected as a trademark.
How do I protect my idea?
Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something.
You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your
description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as
revealed in your written or artistic work.
Does my work have to be published to be protected?
Publication is not necessary for copyright protection.
Can I register a diary I found in my grandmother's attic?
You can register copyright in the diary only if you own the rights to the work,
for example, by will or by inheritance. Copyright is the right of the author
of the work or the author's heirs or assignees, not of the one who only owns
or possesses the physical work itself. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics,
section “Who Can Claim Copyright.”
How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect
your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to
copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the
fee online and attach a copy of your photo. Or, go to the Copyright Office website,
fill in Form CO, print it, and mail it together with your photo and fee. For
more information on registration a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully
use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo
of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject
of the photograph.
Does copyright protect architecture?
Yes. Architectural works became subject to copyright protection on December 1,
1990. The copyright law defines “architectural work” as “the
design of a building embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including
a building, architectural plans, or drawings.” Copyright protection extends
to any architectural work created on or after December 1, 1990. Also, any architectural
works that were unconstructed and embodied in unpublished plans or drawings on
that date and were constructed by December 31, 2002, are eligible for protection.
Architectural designs embodied in buildings constructed prior to December 1,
1990, are not eligible for copyright protection. See Circular 41, Copyright
Claims in Architectural Works
Can I get a star named after me and claim copyright to it?
No. There is a lot misunderstanding about this. Names are not protected by copyright.
Publishers of publications such as a star registry may register a claim to copyright
in the text of the volume [or book] containing the names the registry has assigned
to stars, and perhaps the compilation of data; but such a registration would
not extend protection to any of the individual star names appearing therein.
For further information on copyright protection and names, see Circular 34, Copyright
Protection Not Available for Names, Titles, or Short Phrases
|Note: The Copyright Office offers
introductory answers to frequently asked questions about copyright,
registration, and services of the Office. Links throughout
the answers will guide you to further information on our website
or from other sources. For any other questions, please visit
our Contact Us page.