What Can You Copyright?

Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, audiovisual and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. The U.S. Copyright Act uses the term “author” to refer to all types of creators including: writers, composers, visual artists, choreographers, filmmakers, architects, musicians, and computer software programmers. On our website we refer to all of these individuals as “creators” to avoid confusion.

Copyright does not protect individual words, short phrases or titles. It also does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Thus, as a creator, you cannot copyright the general idea for a story, but (assuming it is sufficiently original) you can copyright the written story itself. For more information, see Subject Matter Protected by Copyright, under Copyright Basics.