What Does a Copyright Mean, and What Are the Different Types?

A copyright gives exclusive rights to persons who create original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other intellectual works.

What is a Copyright?

copyright ascertains exclusive rights to persons who create original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual and creative works. Being a form of intellectual property law, it applies to both published and unpublished works. Copyright law protects the copyright holder of original work, giving him or her the right to control and authorize its use. This copyright protection begins at the U.S. Copyright Office but extends beyond into the world of big and small business.

Copyright law does not apply to facts and ideas, only a tangible medium. It protects the representation of facts and ideas of new works. Works that are still intangible and not rendered onto a physical medium are just ideas and therefore not entitled to copyright protection.

Unlawful usage of types of works protected by the copyright law is known as copyright infringement. In case of infringement, you can seek the help of a copyright attorney. Copyright lawyers help clients apply for copyrights to protect their type of work and represent them in disputes over copyrighted work.

Copyright offers the copyright holder exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce the work in copies
  • Prepare imitative works based upon the original work.
  • Distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease, or lending
  • Perform the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work
  • Display the work publicly if it is a pictorial, graphic, audio-visual or sculptural work. This right also applies to the still images of a motion picture or other audiovisual creations.
  • Broadcast the work publicly using a digital audio transmission if the work is a sound recording  

Copyright law applies to the following type of work:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works
  • Choreography works
  • Artistic works and other visual arts
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works
  • Computer software

The Different Types of Copyright and Types of Works
 Literary Works

Section 101 of the Copyright Act defines “literary works” as “works, other than audiovisual works, expressed in words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as books, periodicals, manuscripts, phonorecords, film, tapes, disks, or cards, in which they are embodied.”

Works termed as “literature,” such as novels, poems, stories, essays, etc.

Written work like catalogs, reference books and databases are also applicable for copyright protection. On the Internet, this definition of literary work includes emails, blog posts, online forums posts, and even computer programs and computer software.

Musical Works

“Musical works” protects musical compositions which includes the instrumental component of the work as well as any accompanying words. According to Section 115 of the Copyright Act, musical works should have “compulsory licensing” once they have been released to the public. These compulsory licenses allow any musician to perform or record their own version of a song without getting permission from the original songwriter.

Dramatic Works

Any work of action, with or without words or music that can be performed before an audience falls under the category of “Dramatic works.” Dramatic works include plays, screenplays, scripts, choreographic notation, choreographic shows and scenarios for a film (but not the film itself). Any work that is intended to be performed dramatically and has been recorded in some form is qualified for copyright protection. Copyright owners of dramatic works possess the right to reproduce, publish, publicly perform, communicate or adapt their works.

Artistic Works

Artistic work commonly includes pictorial, graphic and sculptural works. Artistic works are protected by various statutory rights pursuant to section 32 of the Copyright Act 1968. Some examples provided by this section include paintings and drawings, sculptures, crafts, architectural plans and buildings; and photographs; and maps and plans. Digital illustrations also fall under this category.

Motion Pictures and Other Audiovisual Works

“Audiovisual work,” involves anything which combines both images (visual) and recorded sound (audio). The category of “audio-visual works” includes not just movies. Everything from movies to slideshows to video podcasts—anything that is meant to be visually presented (be it on a projector, TV or computer screen) that consists of recorded sound and images.

Sound Recordings

Sound recordings are defined by the Copyright Act as “works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds, but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audio-visual work.”

Unlike musical works copyright, which protects the musical notes that make up a song, the actual recording of that performed notation is protected as a sound recording. That is, an actual recording of the song onto a physical medium (the CD, tape, mp3 file, etc.) is considered a sound recording. Sounds can also include speeches, sound effects, and audio books.

Architectural Works

The architectural work category protects the design of a building in architectural blueprints, architectural drawings, and even buildings themselves. In the case of architectural works, copyright can protect the work’s general form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design. Buildings meet the general requirements for copyright protection if they are not just basically functional but have adequately original design.

If you are in need of a copyright lawyer, contact the offices of Paul & Paul for all of your intellectual property needs. Call toll free at 866-975-7231 to receive a consultation today.

Get The Legal Advice of Experienced Copyright Lawyers

The Philadelphia law firm of Paul & Paul has a team of copyright attorneys with decades of experience helping copyright owners and working through state and federal court to uphold the copyright protection of the United States Copyright Act and U.S. copyright law for our clients. Our team of copyright lawyers and intellectual property lawyers provides invaluable legal services and legal advice to clients requiring help with both copyright infringement as well defense of enforcement actions such as fair use, copyright registration, copyright protections for independent contractors, and protection of artistic works from derivative works.

If you are in need of a copyright lawyer, or have questions pertaining anything copyright-related such as common law copyright or wondering if a work is of public domain – contact the offices of Paul & Paul for a free consultation. To learn more about the copyright basics, types of copyright,  and the different types of copyright, read our faqs here!


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