What are copyrights and what do they protect?

In most countries, copyright is a legal right that protects original works of authorship. Typically, if you create one of those works, you obtain a copyright from the moment you create it.

Copyright covers a wide variety of types of works, including:

  • Visual: videos, movies, TV shows and broadcasts, video games, paintings, photographs
  • Audio: songs, musical compositions, sound recordings, spoken word recordings
  • Written: books, plays, manuscripts, articles, musical scores

Remember, only original works are eligible for copyright protection. To be original enough for copyright protection, a work needs to be created by the author themselves, and must have some minimal amount of creativity.

Generally, things like names, titles, slogans or short phrases aren't considered to be original enough for copyright protection. For example, the symbol “+” is likely not subject to copyright, but a painting full of shapes and colors arranged in a unique pattern is likely protected under copyright.

Copyright doesn’t generally protect facts or ideas, but it may protect the original words or images that express a fact or idea. This means that you may be able to express the same idea or fact as another author, as long as you don’t copy that author’s way of expressing that idea or fact. For example, a playwright may not be able to copyright the idea of a man waking up to repeat the same day over and over again, but the script for a play or movie expressing that idea could be subject to copyright.

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