Do You Copy?

What Qualifies?

Copyrightable works fall into eight categories: literary works; musical works; dramatic works; pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; sound recordings; pantomimes and choreographic works; audiovisual works; and architectural works. These categories are interpreted very broadly. For example, software may be registered as a literary work; maps as pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; and a children's slide as an architectural work.

On the flip side, several categories of material are not eligible for federal copyright protection. Works that have not been fixed as a copy or phonorecord are not eligible. For example, a dance that has not been recorded or notated is not yet eligible for copyright. Titles, names, short phrases and slogans are not eligible for copyright because they are covered under trademark protection. Mere listings, such as ingredients or phone numbers, are also ineligible. Works that are nothing more than common property and contain no original authorship--such as standard calendars, rulers, height and weight charts, and standard business forms--cannot be protected by copyright. And works by the U.S. government are not eligible for copyright protection because they were paid for by taxpayers and thus are free for anyone's use.

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This article was originally published in the November 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Do You Copy?.

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