Five Things Copyright Law Does Not Protect

A copyright provides protection for works of authorship. This encompasses any description or representation of an idea or system, including photographs, writings, paintings, and other forms of depiction. If you have authored something, you want to be sure that no one else can try to claim it as theirs or use it without your permission. By copyrighting your work, you strengthen your legal right to stop other people from using your intellectual property.

Copyrights are broad, but there are some things they cannot protect. Below are just a few of the things that cannot be copyrighted, some of which may surprise you.

  1.  Ideas

An idea by itself cannot be protected because a copyright can only be secured for something tangible. For example, you may have a great idea for a book. Until you actually write that book, however, this idea could be used by anyone. This means that telling people about your great idea before it is ready to be copyrighted may not be a wise thing to do.

  1.  Methods and Systems

Copyright protection does not apply to the methods or systems that you use to create products, conduct business, or provide services, though you can copyright a drawing, description, or explanation of that system or method.

Even if you cannot copyright this type of information, it is still considered intellectual property, and you have other options you can use to protect it. For example, you can patent a business method so that others cannot use the same type of process to generate income.

  1.  Titles and Names

Your name or business name cannot be copyrighted. This applies to short phrases that you use to identify your work as well. Copyright law is designed to protect works of authorship, but it is not used to protect whatever you call that work. Instead, you can use a trademark to identify a good, service, or product in the marketplace.  

  1.  Choreographic Works

The term “choreographic” means a sequence of steps or movements. This term most often refers to dance performances or something similar, like ice skating routines, but it can apply to the sequence of words and gestures found in speeches as well.

In general, these items cannot be copyrighted. If you videotape or record the performance, however, then that can be copyrighted. If you want to copyright this type of material, you must be sure to document it in some fashion first.

  1.  Facts and Theories

Facts cannot be copyrighted. For example, if you write a book that incorporates a set of facts, the text of your book can be copyrighted but not the facts described within it. It is only the author’s interpretation and retelling of those facts that is protected as a work of authorship.

Copyright law covers a wide variety of creative output, and even if you cannot copyright something, you may be able to use another form of intellectual property protection to safeguard your work. If you’d like to learn more about what copyright law can and cannot do, Integrated General Counsel can help. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Written by Integrated General Counsel

Our focus includes handling a variety of corporate matters and also includes litigation in state and federal courts. Our current practice includes providing transactional services and representing a variety of small and medium-sized companies as their outsourced general counsel.