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last revised Nov. 27, 2001

definitionspurpose scope acquisitionlifetime of protection legal standards


  • Copyright protects only an author's "expression," but not the "idea"
    • Ideas are not copyrightable, only the particular way they are expressed is
  • An "original" work of authorship
    • There must be some modicum of independent originality
  • The work must be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression"
    • This includes works such as:
      • Literary;Musical;Dramatic;Pictoral;Pantomime and Choreographic;Motion Pictures; and Sound recordings
  • Layouts and formats are not copyrightable
    • U.S. Copyright Office has said that layouts and formats may not be registered and protected because the number of ways a picture, story, or typeface may be set are too limited for one person to have exclusive control
17 U.S.C. § 102
46 Fed. Reg. 30,651-30,653 (June 10, 1981)
Nimmer on Copyright §§2.01-2.02

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