Things that cannot be Copyrighted

Blog    July 25, 2019
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Trademark Registration Process

In today’s highly competitive business world, almost everyone is looking for ways to earn more profit, due to which, people sometimes may move towards the path of unlawful copying or using other’s work without seeking their permission explicitly. Therefore, the owners should copyright their original piece of works; to prevent them from infringement. The registration of copyrights helps the owners to deter unauthorized users from infringing their original works. However, this way of evading infringement is not effective in all cases. So, if you have written a new song or crafted a slogan, here comes the question of whether you can copyright them or not.

What can be protected by copyrights?

As per the US Copyright Office, Copyrights grant protection to all the things that exist in a tangible form. The word “original” implies that the work is the sole creation of the owner and is not copying or infringing any already existing work. To be specific, any idea, which is not present in the physical form, cannot be copyrighted. However, there are still many things that can’t obtain Copyright Protection despite being in a tangible form.

What cannot be protected by copyrights?

  • Ideas, Systems, or Methods

Copyrights don’t protect ideas, systems, or methods that cover making things, business procedures or operations, scientific or technical approaches, mathematical principles, algorithms, formulas, or other concepts. Although the Copyright Law does not safeguard the ideas, the expression of ideas can be protected under it. Ideas are works that do not exist in tangible form.

  • Commonly Known Information

You must be familiar with some types of things that are considered as common property and hold no original (known) authorship. All such things, even the statements like; “The sky is blue” are not set to get listed amongst the copyrighted assets as no known authorship is associated with them. Standard calendars, telephone directories, tape measures, rulers, weight and height charts, and tables or lists taken from public documents are some other main items that fall under the same category.

  • Choreographic Works

Owners of choreographic works (no matter original or not) cannot obtain copyright protection unless they videotape or notate them. In the case of speech, the creator is unable to get the protection unless he transcribes the same.

  • Blank Forms

Copyrights don’t apply to blank forms, encapsulating time cards, address books, graph papers, and diaries.

  • Titles, Names, Phrases, or Expressions

People can’t get the copyrights for the catchy slogan, titles of the works, pseudonyms, product descriptions, and names they come up with for representing or promoting their businesses. Ingredients of anything, including recipes, formulas, prescriptions, etc., are also processed under the same doctrine. However, some exceptions like cookbooks that cover instructions and explanations can attain the benefits of Registered Copyrights.

  • Useful Articles

Things such as clothing, automobiles, and home appliances possess utilitarian functions and thus, cannot obtain copyright protection. But, exceptions like building designs due to being considered as an artistic expression also, can be copyrighted.

  • Laws

Works like cases, regulations, court decisions, constitutions, and statues are considered to be in the public domain, and therefore, cannot be copyrighted.

  • Federal Government Works

Works, including memos, reports, rules, and documents that are being created by the Federal US Government are not permitted to be copyrighted. On the other hand, various state governments possess remarkable rights to copyright their works.

Bottom Line

Undoubtedly, the Intellectual Property (IP) owners can protect many of their assets by using copyrights. But relying completely on just these rights is not a prudent idea as they don’t cover everything. No, the creators don’t need to worry as they have some other approaches, like trademark law, and patent law to protect their assets that copyrights can’t. A person should have detailed information about the things which can and can’t be copyrighted. Besides, they should understand which type of Intellectual Property Rights like trademarks, patents, to name a few will apply to certain things that cannot be protected by copyrights. For more visit: 

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