As a business owner or buyer of creative products, it is important to understand how and when creative copyright impacts you.Intellectual property is the term used for legal rights that empower creators to restrict others from using their creative works without permission. Copyright is one type of intellectual property protection, but there are others including Trademark and Patent law.Copyright is ownership of an intellectual property that:
• is an original creation
• exists in tangible form such as a book, DVD or recording
• may or may not be published
• falls within the U.S. Copyright Act and other copyright laws
Note that works created in the course of an employment are likely to be owned by your employer, though ownership rules vary by jurisdiction. Independent contractors may or may not own and control copyright in the works they create in that capacity. That will depend on the terms of the contract between you and your client.
Generally speaking, a work is copyrighted the moment it is created and it must somehow be preserved or be able to be reproduced. Registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office gives you legal grounds and stronger protections.
Not all original work can be copyrighted. There are many specific types of works that would qualify, and below are sampling lists of work that may or may not qualify for copyright protection.
Works That Can Be Copyrighted
• Artistic and visual art
• Cinematographic and audiovisual
• Translations, adaptations, arrangements of literary and artistic works•Collections of literary and artistic works
• Computer software
What Cannot Be Protected
Works that are not fixed in some tangible form.
Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans. (You may be able to trademark or service mark these)
• Familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring
• Mere listings of ingredients or contents
• Typefaces, page designs, and layouts
• Ideas, procedures, methods, processes, concepts, principles, or discoveries, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or
• Works that are “common property” and have no original authorship, i.e., standard calendars, tape measures, lists, or tables taken from public documents or other common sources
Works that are in the public domain, for which the copyright has expired
Copyrighting Websites and Domain Names
You can copyright original authorship on a website, including the artwork, logo, writing, photos, videos—basically anything on your website that can otherwise be copyrighted. The website as a whole is not protected by copyright.
When you register a copyright for online content, you must copyright each item under the specific media type that applies (e.g., a piece of music, a literary work, etc.). This process would entail copyrighting all updates.
Domain names are not protected by copyright law.
This information is not intended as legal advice, but as a general overview. For information about your specific copyright questions contact an Intellectual Property attorney.