What Can Be Copyrighted?

Original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression can be copyrighted, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrightable works include both published and unpublished literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture.

For something to be copyrightable, the elements of originality, fixation and expression are required, according to New Media Rights. The work must meet a basic level of creativity that can be attributed to the author or creator. Facts, titles and short phrases do not meet standards of originality and are not covered under copyright. A work must be in a form that can be perceived or reproduced for a non-transitory period of time. Copyright protects the expression of an idea, but it does not cover the idea itself. It also does not protect systems, methods of operation or discoveries. Band names, recipes and domain names are other examples of work that cannot be copyrighted, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright protects an author's original work from the moment that it is fixed in a tangible form, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration of the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office is voluntary, though it is required if one wants to sue for copyright infringement of a U.S. work.