A copyright is the ownership interest in certain original artistic works. The creator of an artistic work protects his ownership by submitting it to the United States Copyright Office, which registers the copyright. Work eligible for copyright registration under the United States Copyright Act must be original, fixed in tangible form and presentable either directly or with electronic aid. The act protects the ownership interest in eight categories of artistic work.
Literary works are works that are presented in words or visual symbols. The copyright act lists book, magazine. periodical, phonorecord, tape, disk and card as acceptable formats under this category. Excluded are works involving sound, such as audiovisual presentations.
Musical works are works that are musical compositions and any accompanying words or lyrics, when the music and lyrics are presented in a tangible format, such as on tape, disk or phonorecord. Original compositions, and original versions of existing compositions to which new material is added, both qualify as musical works under the act.
Dramatic works include works that are scripts for plays, radio and television programs, and motion pictures. These works may be accompanied by music. This category generally includes the plot, spoken words or dialogue and stage direction. Technically included in this category are pantomimes and choreographic works. However, the act also lists these last two types of dramatic works under their own category.
Pantomimes and Choreographic Works
Under the act, a pantomime is the physical acting out or imitating of a character or event. Choreography is the arrangement of dance moves, usually set to music. The act protects the arrangement of physical positions performed as a pantomime or as choreography as along as they are set in a physical medium, such as represented on paper.
Pictorial, Graphic and Sculptural Works
This category includes both two- and three-dimensional works of art. The act specifically includes prints, photographs and models as pictorial, graphic or sculptural works of art. The act specifies that while the craftsmanship of items in this category is protected, any use that may be made of the crafted item is not.
Audiovisual works are works that are a series of related images, such as motion pictures, viewed through use of electronic equipment. The images may be contained in any available media, such as tape or film. Included in this category are any sounds, such as music or dialogue, accompanying the images.
A sound recording is a series of sounds made by any means, including musical or spoken. The recording may be in any format, such as tape, disk or phonorecord. The act specifically excludes from this category sounds that accompany audiovisual presentations, such as movie soundtracks.
An architectural work is a building design. The design may be represented by a model or the building itself, or it may be represented simply by a drawing or blueprint. Building design includes individual elements of the design and their arrangement, but excludes standard features used in most architectural work.