Copyright Mystery Home

Copyright Overview: Copyright Coverage

One of the biggest mysteries is what is covered by copyright.

Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. That can mean "put on paper or canvas", but it also includes things that require a machine - such as a camera or a computer - to view.

Copyrightable works include:

General Categories

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

Digital Materials

  • electronic books
  • digital video
  • digital audio
  • graphics
  • E-mail
  • web sites
  • embedded works on web site

These are the kind of things we generally think of as copyrightable - but everything we create, from the doodle on the margin of our notes to the presentation we prepare for a class - is covered by copyright, once we fix it in a tangible form.

An idea is not copyrightable. The idea fixed into tangible form is copyrightable.

To do your own detective work on this, see the US Copyright Office's Circular 1: Copyright Basics.

Source: The information on this web page is based on the Copyright Office and Austin Community College.

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updated: 15 August, 2011