While you don’t have to publish your work to have it be protected by copyright law, it does have to meet certain requirements. Most importantly, your work must be an original work of authorship, and must be a tangible expression of an idea, such as a written work, a painting, or choreography notation. Media like film and sound recordings are also allowed, since the substance of the work can be communicated with the help of playback devices. Essentially, the medium doesn’t matter as long as it’s a physical, tangible medium. Pure ideas are not considered intellectual property and therefore cannot be copyrighted, patented, or trademarked.
Types of copyrightable intellectual property works include the following:
- literary works (including books, manuals, computer code, software...)
- musical works, including any accompanying words
- dramatic works, including any accompanying music
- choreographed works, either recorded or written in fixed notation
- pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (including maps and architectural plans)
- motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- sound recordings
- architectural works
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This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.