This article answers some basic questions about copyrights. For further information, go to http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html, and see Circular 1.
It is important to understand what copyright law does protect. Copyright is a form of intellectual property law that protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work such as novels, poetry, movies, songs, computer software and architecture.
The key is that copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems or methods of operations in and of themselves, but can protect the way the aforementioned are expressed.
The original authorship appearing on a web site may be protected by a copyright. This can include the writings, artwork, photography and other forms of authorship appearing within it. In short, the elements of the web site may be protected by copyright. The procedures for registering the content on a web site may be found in Circular 66, Copyright Registration for Online Works.
Domain names, however, are not protected by copyright law. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization, has assumed the responsibility for domain name system management and administers the assignation of domain names through accredited registers.
A mere listing of ingredients in relation to a recipe is not protected under copyright law; however, if the recipe is accompanied by literary expression in relation to explanations or directions, there may be a basis for copyright protection. If the recipe is within the context of a collection of recipes in a book, there may also be a basis for copyright protection.
However, keep in mind that if you wish to keep the recipe ingredients secret, submitting your recipe for registration makes the recipe open to the public because applications and deposit copies are public records. See FL 122, Recipes.
Names are not protected by copyright law unless the name is a trademark. Contact U.S. Patent & Trademark Office at 800-786-9199 for further information.
Also, copyright law does not protect names, slogans, titles or short phrases. However, the aforementioned may be protected if used as trademarks. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office at 800-786-9199 for further information. If a logo contains sufficient authorship, there may be a basis for protection or the artistic logo may be protected as a trademark.
Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems or methods of doing something. The idea may be expressed through writings or drawings in describing the idea and claim copyright, but copyright law will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.
Publication is not necessary for copyright protection.
When applying copyright to historical/personal items, like an old diary, you can register copyright only if you own the rights to the work by will or inheritance. Copyright is the right of the author of the work or the author’s heirs or assignees, not of the claimant who only owns or possesses the physical work itself. See circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Who Can Claim a Copyright.”
Copyright law does not protect sightings, but does protect the photograph of the sighting. Just send the photo with a Form VA to the copyright office along with a $30 fee. Then, no one can lawfully copy your photo of the sighting but may submit their own photo of their sighting. That is the key, because copyright law does not protect the subject of the photo, just the original photograph itself.