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Literary Works – a Definition
Literary works are any nondramatic textual works that include words, numbers and/or symbols.  Dramatic works are those created with the intention of being performed in front of an audience either directly or indirectly through a medium such as television. If you have created a ‘dramatic’ work such as a film script, you should register it as a “dramatic” work rather than a “literary” work.

How to Copyright a Literary Work
Copyright law is very affordable in the sense that, as soon as you put your literary work in a tangible form, you own the copyright.  This means you own the rights to, among other things, produce or reproduce the work.  As the owner of copyright, you also have the option of licensing or transferring the rights to someone else.

Let’s look at some common examples of literary works:

  • How to copyright a book

To copyright a book, put it in a fixed form.  Writing on your computer screen alone may not be sufficient fixation. You should either print the work, or save it to a CD, DVD or hard drive.  Alternatively, you could write the entire novel on paper.  While characters alone are often not protectable under copyright law, you cannot take the characters from another author’s book and incorporate them into your story.

  • How to Copyright 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.  As well, one could make a compilation of letters to create a new form or work in which copyright would exist.

  • How to Copyright a Recipe

Owning the copyrights to a recipe is more complicated than some other literary works. This is because 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 protectable.  Unfortunately, it may be difficult to express a recipe in an original way.  Fortunately, most people want to protect their recipe book rather than just one recipe.  If this is the case, and you have compiled a number of recipes to form an original compilation, the compilation can be protected under copyright law as such.  However, a collection of materials must incorporate a certain amount of intellectual and creative effort in order to qualify for protection as a work under copyright law.

  • How to Copyright Song Lyrics

Once your original lyrics are fixed in a material form, they are “copyrighted” literary works.

  • How to Copyright Manuals

An original expression in the form of a manual in a fixed form is protected; however, the topic to which the manual speaks is not.  For example, a manual that is written about ‘how to use your remote control’ may be protected as a literary work, but the underlying concept of remote control use cannot be so protected.

  • Website Content

The copy on a website falls under copyright law.  It’s always a good idea to include the copyright symbol on your site to remind users they are not permitted to copy your original expression of the ideas presented.

  • 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.

  • Other Literary Works

Other examples of works that can be protected under ‘literary works’ include:
Theses, reports, directories, catalogues, and advertising copy (the text).

For more information on copyright, click here.

Kate Henderson is an Entertainment and Intellectual Property lawyer who reviewed this Copyright Creators article. 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.

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.

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