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A common question for people who want to protect their work is: “What does copyright protect?”

Depending on the country where your work was created, the answer may differ slightly. However, most countries classify copyrights to fall into one of the following categories:
1. Literary Works
2. Dramatic Arts/Performing Arts
3. Sound Recordings
4. Visual Arts/Artistic Works
5. Serials and Periodicals

Let’s look at each of these categories individually.

1. Literary Works
A literary work does not simply mean a story, manuscript or poem, but rather a number of categories of work that are expressed in words, numbers or symbols.
Some examples of these works include:

• Books
Regardless of the content, the expression of the ideas in a book falls under copyright law.  As a reminder, the ideas themselves are not protectable, just the expression of them.

• Letters
Letters or memos can either be in hard copy (on paper) or soft copy (on email). Either way, they are protected by copyright law.

• Song Lyrics
Once the original lyrics are put in a fixed form, they are copyrighted

• Manuals
The creative and original expression of the manual in a fixed form is protected; however, the topic to which the manual speaks is not.

• Website Content
While the content of the website falls under copyright law, you would only be protected for the exact page you register, and not any updates (unless you register the page again).  In other words, if you register your home page, and you then make some changes - the changes are not protected because they are not included in your original registration.  Depending on how often you update your website, registration may or may not be worth the time and financial investment.

• Recipes
The actual listing of ingredients is not protected by copyright law, however, the detailed expression of the methods, directions, tips, and suggestions for serving are.   The courts are looking for some new creative expression.  Additionally, if one were to create a recipe book compilation included recipes from different sources; you could protect your compilation as a whole.  As such, someone would not be able to remove your cover, use all your recipes and put their own cover on it.

• Computer Programs
The Canadian Copyright Act defines a computer program as “a set of instruction or statements, expressed, fixed, embodied or stored in any manner that is to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a specific result.”  As a result, you can protect the actual program (the source code), but not the language that is used or the idea.

• Others:
o Theses
o Reports
o Directories
o Catalogues
o Advertising copy (the text)

2. Dramatic Arts/Performing Arts
In order for a work to be classified in this category, there needs to be a dramatic element to it.  These works are created with the intention of being performed for an audience, either directly (live show) or indirectly (over the T.V). Some examples of these works include:

• Screenplays
Screenplays are written with the intention of being produced or performed.  These could include, but are not limited to scripts for: plays, radio shows, movies, television shows, comedy acts, etc.

• Musical Works
Musical Works are considered compositions or songs that may or may not include words.  As long as the dramatic nature of the work has been put in a tangible form (paper, CD, hard drive, etc.) it is protected under copyright law.
Note: although confusing, ‘Sound Recordings’ is a separate copyright subject than Musical Works.  It will be discussed below in greater detail.

• Audio-Visual Works (movies)
Audio-Visual works are often referred to as ‘cinematographs’.  These works must have been expressed in some form of ‘moving photography’. Examples include: movies, television programs, home videos, news coverage, and improvised acts.

• Sound Tracks
These are protected under Dramatic Arts/Performing arts as long as they accompany the cinematograph (movie).

• Choreographic Works (dance routines)
Similar to stories, it’s not the individual steps or movements that are protected by copyright law, but the choreography sequences.  Remember – to be eligible for copyright, the choreography must be recorded into a fixed form (paper, filmed).

3. Sound Recordings
Sound Recordings do not fall under ‘Musical Works’ because they protect the manner in which the sound is performed as well as the actual performance. They cover the actual fixed version of musical compositions or musical works (the actual sounds that were recorded).  Sound recording copyrights are often owned by the performer, producer or, recording company.
Musical works intended to accompany a movie or other audiovisual work should be registered in the Dramatic/Performing arts category.

Examples of sound recordings include:
• recordings of music,
• recordings of drama
• recordings of lectures
• recordings of nature sounds

4. Visual Arts/Artistic Works
Visual Arts under copyright law are just that – art that you can see.  More specifically, they are two dimensional, three-dimensional, fine, graphic or applied art works.  As a reminder, you do not own the copyright to the subject of the art (for example, you do not own the right of the world map. However, you can own the original expression of the world map as you represented it).
Some examples of Visual Arts/Artistic Works include:

• Photographs

• Drawings – Including Logos, Paintings, Murals
There is no restriction on where these images may appear.  They are all protected whether on paper, a wall, or a napkin.  Additionally, scribbles by a child are just as protected under copyright law as an intricate oil painting by a professional.

• Greeting Cards
The pictorial portion of the card would be registered as a visual art, and the words would be registered as a literary work.

• Maps
Drawings, globes and models are all included as long as there is an original and creative aspect to them.

• Jewelry Designs

• Architectural Drawings
According to the U.S. copyright act, architectural drawings are “the design of a building as embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans, or drawings. The work includes the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design, but does not include individual standard features.” In other words, the copyright to the plans of the structure and the actual structure itself are different.

• Advertisements
The visual element would be protected under visual arts.

• Sculptures
Not only is the actual finished sculpture protected, but the casts and moulds as well.

• Posters

• Cartoons/comic strips
The artistic portion of the work is protected under ‘visual arts’ and the words are protected under ‘literary works’.

• Patterns for clothing
When dealing with clothing patterns, the answer is not ‘clear-cut’.  If the pattern is intended to be a one-of-a-kind piece, it may be protected under copyright law.  However, it would be prudent to consult a lawyer regarding your specific situation to ensure your pattern qualifies.

5. Serials & Periodicals
Works that are issued in successive parts; have chronological or numerical designations; and are intended to be continued indefinitely.
• Newspapers
• Magazines
• Newsletters
• Journals
• Periodicals

Disclaimer: The above is meant as a general guide to further your copyright knowledge and does not constitute legal advice.  For questions about your specific work, you should consult a copyright lawyer in your country.

Author Bio
Justine Shoolman is the Co-Founder of Copyright Creators (www.copyrightcreators.com), a service inspired by the shortfalls of ‘poor man’s copyright’.  Copyright Creators protects copyright for life with no membership or renewal fees.  Visit Copyright Creators today and you’ll receive 4 free registrations to protect & create proof of your copyright online.

One Response to “What Does Copyright Protect? The 5 Categories of Protection in Copyright Law”

  1. [...] Step 1: ensure your work is subject to copyright protection (if you have a literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work – it is subject to copyright protection).  Click the link for more information on what is protected by copyright laws. [...]

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