What types of work are covered by copyright protection for ?
Copyright laws safeguard the exclusive rights of the creator of “original works of authorship" that are created in a “tangible medium of expression”. The exclusive rights of the creator encompass the rights to reproduce, copy, amend and distribute the work.
© Types of works protected by copyright
The Copyright Law of the United States of America states that “original works of authorship” encompass the following categories of artistic creations:
- Literary works: fictional and nonfictional books, poetry, articles, reports, as well as computer software, instructions handbooks, text adverts and brochures.
- Musical works, including any accompanying word: instrumental music and song lyrics as well as advertising jingles.
- Dramatic works, including any accompanying music: plays, burlesque, parody, and operas.
- Pantomimes and choreographic works: ballets and other styles of dances including mime performances.
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works: paintings, photographs, sketches, drawings, sculptures, statues, posters, maps, graphical art, web site designs, and cartoon characters.
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works: this encompasses all types of audiovisual works including film, videos, documentaries, television shows, television adverts, music videos and other multimedia works.
- Sound recordings: encompasses all types of recording including music, speech and sound.
- Architectural works: blueprints, model structures, and constructed buildings.
It is important to stress that for a work to be eligible for copyright the work must be original and contain an element of creativity on the author’s part.
© How to obtain copyright
Original material created in those countries that are members of the Berne Convention acquire instantaneous copyright. Once the originator of an artistic creation secures his work in a tangible form the author can claim the exclusive rights to his or her work as stipulated by the copyright law. In other words, the copyright of a created work comes into effect as soon as the work is transposed into the physical world.
Nevertheless, several countries still have a national copyright office which caters for the registration of created works. This registration serves to identify the works created by different authors as well as serve as “prima facie” evidence if disputes relating to copyright occur.
© What is not protected by copyright?
Copyright protection does not encompass works that have not been created in a “tangible form of expression”. For instance, describing an idea for a novel does not entitle the speaker to the copyright of that idea.
Ideas, thoughts, concepts, processes or any sort of discoveries that are described or recorded in written form are not protected by copyright law. For example, an idea about how to write the next bestseller is not protected by copyright law. However, the actual words used to convey that idea in written form are still subject to copyright law.
Lastly, factual information that is of public knowledge is not protected by copyright law. This exemption encompasses historical and scientific facts, general knowledge, and news stories.
© Duration of Copyright
The exclusive rights provided by copyright laws subsist for a specified time period. The standard copyright of created works lasts for seventy years after the author’s death.
An original work which is no longer protected under copyright law after the specified time period enters the public domain granting the general public the rights to reproduce and distribute the work.