Copyright Basics, Part II: What works are and are not protected?

One of the most confusing parts of publishing for many authors is copyright laws. To address the common copyright questions I am often asked, I will be writing a copyright basics series every week for the month of September. See the end of the post for links past posts you may missed, and be sure to check back each week for answers to more of your copyright questions.

What works are protected?

Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. Copyrightable works include the following 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

These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be registered as “literary works”. Likewise, maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”

What works are not protected?

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include:

  • works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression, meaning they have not been recorded in some way
  • titles, names, short phrases, and slogans
  • familiar symbol or designs
  • mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring
  • mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
  • works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship, such as standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources

 To learn more about copyright law, visit Also, be sure to check back next week for part II of this series: What works are and are not protected?

Copyright Basics, Part I: What is copyright and who can claim copyright?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

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