7 Types of Creative Works Protected by Copyright Law

February 10, 2017Diana Lengerson


Photo by bykst, CC0 1.0

Copyrights are one of the best things you can do to protect your creative works. There are plenty of nefarious people out there who would love to steal your work and use it as their own. That’s where copyright law steps in.

The major types of creative works that are protected by copyright law are: literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, sound recordings, architectural works, and motion pictures. Whether you’re dealing with a copyright lawyer or not, it’s important that you make yourself aware of what copyright law covers and what it doesn’t. Keep reading to learn some more.

  1. Literary Works

In the Copyright Act, literary works are defined as: “works, other than audiovisual works, expressed in words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as books, periodicals, manuscripts, phonorecords, film, tapes, disks, or cards, in which they are embodied.”

Basically, it means all written creative work such as novels, other literature, poems, etc. If you’re dealing with creative writing work, you’re covered by copyright law.

  1. Musical Works

When it comes to musical works, this includes the instrumental work and the words that come with those instrumental sounds. Copyright law protects the author of the lyrics, as well as the performers from nefarious copyright activity. However, there is something called “compulsory licensing”, which allows other people to perform covers and such of your songs, without permission from the original performer.

  1. Dramatic Works

This section includes everything from plays to screenplays to TV scripts. This is where some of the overlap comes in when it comes to copyright law. For example, the musical score from a movie can be copyrighted separately from the movie itself. Or the sound recording from an e-book can be copyrighted separately, as well.

Before figuring out which kinds of laws apply to you, you’ll need to decide what category of creative work your work falls under.

  1. Choreographic Works

Under this category, you will find everything from ballets to dances to mime performances. Copyright law requires that these kinds of works are “fixed” before they can be protected. This usually means that they must be recorded in some way, so that they are proven to be the original.

Interestingly, when you look at this category, folk and traditional dances are not covered by copyright law.

  1. Sound Recordings

When it comes to sound recordings, they are defined by the Copyright Law as: “works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds, but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work.”

These are completely different from musical works. When you’re talking about musical works, you’re talking about protecting the harmony, melody, and lyrics that go along with the song. A sound recording is the actual recording of the song onto a CD or MP3 player.

  1. Architectural Works

When you think about copyright law, you probably don’t think about architecture being a category. However, when it comes to blueprints and the architectural design itself, these can be protected by copyright law. Who knew?

  1. Motion Pictures & Audiovisual Works

Lastly, we have motion pictures and audiovisual works. Basically, when you think of audiovisual works, you can think of works that combine both the visual medium and sound together on the screen. However, this doesn’t stop at movies. It can also be expanded to include video podcasts, slideshows, and anything that has been recorded and is shown through a visual medium.

You should ensure that your creative work is properly protected by the copyright law. If not, you’re putting yourself at risk of someone taking control of your work and using it for their own purposes.


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