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Copyright Questions – What Cannot Be Copyrighted

What Can You Copyright?

At Sanders Law Group, our copyright lawyers help creative artists and professionals protect their rights. We represent photographers, musicians, authors, and others to ensure they receive proper compensation for their work. When others utilize their work without appropriate permissions, licenses, or payments, we hold them accountable and do everything we can to protect the legal rights of our clients.

Understanding your legal rights can help protect and enforce them. The US Copyright Office provides the public with a long list of frequently asked questions and their answers. While every copyright case is unique and might hinge on specific circumstances, the general knowledge the office provides can help you to understand the basics.

Many people wonder, “what can I copyright?” Here, we share some of the questions many people have about what they can and cannot copyright and the answers provided by the US Copyright Office on their website.

What Does Copyright Protect?

Copyright is a subset of intellectual property law. Copyright protects “original works of authorship.” Copyright does not protect ideas, facts, systems, or methods of operation. It may, however, protect how these things are expressed.

Can I Copyright my Website?

You may protect original authorship that appears on your website, such as artwork, writings, photos, and other forms of work covered by copyright.

Can I Copyright a Domain Name?

Copyright does not protect domain names. There is an organization that has ‘assumed the responsibility for domain name system management.” This nonprofit organization is called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) administers the assigning of domain names through various registers.

What If I Want to Protect One of My Recipes?

A simple list of ingredients is not protected under copyright.

But, “where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook,” copyright protection may apply.

Do not submit any recipe for registration if it has secret ingredients you wish to remain confidential. Applications to register copyrights and the copies for the deposit, are public records.

What If I Want to Copyright the Name of My Band?

Names, including names of bands, are not protected by US Copyright law. Some names might be protected under trademark law.

What if I want to Copyright a Name, Title, Slogan, or Logo?

Copyright does not protect titles, names, slogans, or short phrases. These items might, at times, receive protection under trademark law.

An artistic logo may be protected under trademark law. However, it “contains sufficient authorship,” it might fall under copyright protection.

Will Copyright Protect My Idea?

No. Your idea itself may not be protected by copyright. Copyright does not protect concepts, ideas, systems, or methods of doing something.

You may express and describe your thoughts and ideas in writings or drawings or other means of authorship and receive copyright protection for that work. But, the underlying ideas you are expressing in your work are not protected.

Do I Have to Publish My Work?

No. Publication is not required to receive copyright protection.

Is Architecture Protected Under Copyright?

Yes. December 1, 1990, architectural work was added to copyright protection. What is architectural work? The law describes it as “the design of a building embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans, or drawings.”

Architectural work created on or after December 1, 1990, is eligible for copyright protection. Also, “any architectural works that were unconstructed and embodied in unpublished plans or drawings on that date and were constructed by December 31, 2002, are eligible for protection.”

Contact Us if You Are Concerned About Your Rights Under Copyright Law

Call the Sanders Law Group, if you need help protecting your legal rights under copyright law. We are dedicated to ensuring that photographers and other creative professionals are treated with the fairness and respect you deserve. We want you to get paid for your hard work and make sure you retain control over the circumstances under which it gets used.

Call our copyright lawyers representing clients around the globe, today at 888-348-3090


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