A copyright gives certain exclusive rights to persons who create original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. 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, and
- Architectural works.
These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be registered as “literary works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”
To be copyrightable, the work must be more than an idea; it must be fixed in a “tangible form of expression.” This means that the work must be written or recorded. This is because a copyright does not protect an idea or plan; instead, it protects the expression of that idea or plan.
In addition, the work must be original. It must not be copied from someone else, and it must contain some minimal level of creativity. Facts, well-known phrases or a list of names, in and of itself, are not copyrightable. However, if these items are organized or expressed in an original manner, then a copyright would protect that organization or expression.