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What can't I protect with a copyright?

Intellectual property is an increasingly important element of today's businesses. These are creative works that set one company, product or service apart from the others; they can be incredibly valuable to a company or individual, so protecting them is often crucial.

One way to protect intellectual property is by registering copyrighted works. Registering gives an author the right to take legal action against another person who unlawfully claims the work as their own or reproduces, distributes or performs the work without authorization. However, there are some limitations to a copyright of which you need to be aware.

To begin with, you cannot copyright any and everything. In fact, the following is a brief list of things that cannot be copyrighted:

  • Facts
  • Ideas
  • Methods of operations
  • Names
  • Titles
  • Expressions
  • Short phrases

Further, you should know that not just anyone can claim copyright. As noted in this circular by the United States Copyright Office, only the author of the work can claim copyright. However, in cases where an employee is hired to create that work, generally speaking, the employer will actually be considered the author.

Finally, as we mentioned above, a copyright must be registered in order for the owner to take any sort of legal action citing misuse. Copyright exists from the moment work is expressed tangibly, but it is not protected until it is registered.

Copyright can be a powerful tool in protecting works created by or for your company. However, as we have shown in this post, there are limitations and certain requirements that must be considered. In the event that a copyright is not going to protect the things you need to protect, you can consider other options. In our next post, we will look at what these options might be.

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