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A copyright is the legal right given to the creator of a literary, artistic, or musical work to exclusively publish, print, perform or record the work. Examples of works that can be copyrighted are literary works, music, computer code, film or drama, videos, paintings or drawings, sculptures, and architecture. Even a choreographed dance can be copyrighted. Copyrights exist to protect those who create works, allowing them to profit from their labor. Copyrights also provide an incentive for people to create.

Required Elements for a Copyright

For something to qualify for a copyright, it must have three elements, which are fixation, expression, and originality.

  • Fixation – Fixation of a work means that it is copied down or recorded in some fixed way. For example, a song has lyrics that are written out with music that is in notation or is recorded. A story is written down or saved in a computer.  You cannot copyright a simple idea that is not fixed or recorded anywhere.
  • Expression – Expression means the specific form in which an idea is expressed, not the idea itself. So, if you have an idea about a spaceship that travels faster than light and that explores interstellar space, you can express your idea in some specific form even if someone else had the same idea, but expressed it differently than you.
  • Originality – Work that is eligible for copyright must be original even if it is related to work that has already been done before. For example, there may be a thousand films that have a love story as their plot, but to get a copyright for yours, it must be your own unique love story.

Titles of works, however, may not be copyrighted, and neither can any type of hard research data. Anything produced by the federal government also cannot be copyrighted.

Call to Schedule a Consultation With a California Copyright Lawyer Today

If you are interested in obtaining a copyright for your work, call to schedule a consultation with a California copyright lawyer today. The expert legal staff at the Law Offices of Dorian Cartwright can help you understand what will qualify for a copyright and help you get yours. We serve the cities of San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, San Francisco and surrounding communities. Check out our web page at or give us a call at 1-800-810-8030 and let us answer any questions you may have about the copyright process.

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