Copyright—What and When It Protects


There’s been a hubbub in the news and social media lately; that’s right, someone’s work has been, presumably, stolen. This is a natural concern for authors and the source of much-asked questions at writing conferences and online: Do you need to copyright your work immediately? Does putting the symbol on your work yourself count? Are you in danger of agents and publishers stealing your work while submitting? And What does copyright actually protect? To set the record straight, we’ve gone to the official sources.* So relax, sit back, and consider this your sanctioned primer on all things copyrighted.


What Can and Can’t Be Protected under Copyright?

Generally, a manuscript that is not in a tangible form of expression isn’t eligible for federal copyright protection. Here’s what’s meant by a tangible form: you can hold it in your hand or you can pull it up on any sort of device (computer, cell phone, iPad, or the sort) and read it. In other words, if you’ve told three of your best friends about your manuscript but haven’t written any of it down, it’s not protected by copyright.

Even if they’re in tangible form, there are certain things that aren’t covered by copyright protection. “Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, titles, names, short phrases, slogans, procedures, methods, concepts, principles, and discoveries.” However, copyright “may protect the way these things are expressed when written, filmed, or recorded.” [Read more...]