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Who Can Claim a Copyright? Examples of What You Can Copyright

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/13/2010

A copyright protects original creative works, including but not limited to books, music, research papers, and publications, to keep them safe from intellectual property theft by others. Read on for more examples of things you can copyright.

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    Who Can Claim a Copyright?

    Copyright Only a person or group of persons who have created a unique, original, creative, work of expression can claim a copyright.

    In order to claim a copyright, you must have created the work and have a desire or need to protect it from theft or misuse by others. You might have written a book or a poem, created a song or song lyrics, or created another type of work, such as a research thesis, Web page, a publication, or something similar. Editors, writers, photographers, musicians, and publishing companies are deeply involved in copyrighting, as it provides a means to protect their intellectual property.

    Your work must be original. You cannot copyright someone else’s work. The work must be tangible, too, meaning it can be written, copied, printed, and distributed. You cannot claim a copyright if your “work of expression" is an idea, theory, or simply information you’ve amassed. Some works are simply outside the realm of a copyright, such as court decisions, numbers and alphabets, laws created by lawmakers, and names in a telephone book. Remember, you have to create the work, and it has to be a work of creative expression.

    For more information read: The Steps Involved in Applying for a Copyright

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    Examples of Copyrights

    It’s impossible to list every example of work available for copyright. However, this list offers a generic offering of items copyrighted regularly:

    • Literary works including books, poems, theses, and publications
    • Motions pictures and dramatic works
    • Computer software and animations
    • Songs, song lyrics, sound recordings, and music
    • Photographs, graphics, images, pictures
    • Web pages
    • Works of art including paintings, sculptures, architecture, and computer graphics
    • Educational materials including texts and tests

    To learn more, read How Long Does a Copyright Last?

    Note: Remember, you cannot copyright intangible works such as an improvisational act, nor can you copyright anything familiar, like a slogan or phrase. Copyrights are only granted to original works of expression.

    If you aren’t sure if a copyright is right for you, you may need a patent or a trademark instead. For more information, read The Difference Between a Patent and a Trademark.