What is copyright?
Copyright protects creative works (i.e., art and music and video, but also e-course content and opt ins and copy).
What copyright isn’t.
Copyright is not protection for inventions. That’s patent territory. And it’s not protection for a brand name, which is trademark territory.
It depends on the context.
“I want to copyright this.”
Sometimes you’ll hear someone say, “I want to copyright this.” But what does it mean in that context?
It usually means one of two things.
- They want to protect it, or
- They want to register it with the US Copyright Office.
In terms of protecting it, you don’t have to “copyright” (register) something in order to protect it. U.S. law protects your creative work the moment that it is fixed in a “tangible medium of expression.” (That’s super technical, legal jargon for you know, the act of taking something from your brain and put it out there, putting it on paper, creating a recording, making it something more than just an idea in your head.) It has to be fleshed out somehow, in some kind of medium, some kind of expression.
The other thing that comes up is, “I want to copyright this thing,” meaning, they want to register it with the Copyright Office. And it’s a fairly painless process that you can usually do completely online, once you know all the lingo.
“That’s not copyrighted.”
The other context and when you hear someone use copyright as kind of a verb instead of a thing is when you hear someone say, “His work or her work isn’t copyrighted, so I can use it.” That’s a little bit of a myth. So what does it mean in that context?
First of all, by saying something isn’t copyrighted, usually what you mean is that it’s not registered. But remember that copyright protection attaches when that work is fixed or expressed in a more tangible medium. So it doesn’t have to be registered in order to have protection. (Though protection does come with some hefty benefits.) When you hear someone say, “This isn’t copyrighted, so I can use it,” that’s not necessarily true.
Summing it up
I hope that helps you understand kind of the proper use of the word “copyright” or “copyrighted.” You really either mean registered or protected.
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