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What is Copyrightable

Applicants seeking copyright protection for their works must establish that the works are original and have been reduced to “tangible medium of expression.” (see 17 U.S.C. § 102[a]). The phrase, “tangible medium of expression,” means that the work must be reduced to some concrete form, as when something is written on a piece of paper, recorded on an audiotape, captured on a videotape, or stored on a computer disk or hard drive.

“Originality” does not mean “novelty” for the purposes of copyright law. It simply means that the work in question is the work of the person seeking copyright protection and not the creation of a third-party from whom the work was copied. The law allows for old works to be recreated with new themes or characters, adapted to new settings, or updated with fresh data so long as the new variation is something more than trivial and reflects the creator’s contribution. However, courts will not sit in judgment of a work’s artistic merits or aesthetic qualities.

Inside What is Copyrightable