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What Does a Copyright Mean


What Does a Copyright Mean, and What Are the Different Types?

As you start finding your way in the real world, you find out there are things like Copyright. In other words, it becomes clear that you can’t use everything you find online and like for personal benefit. The internet might be considered a free market, but in reality, it’s not free at all. Copyright exists to protect hard-working artists who don’t want others to profit from their work. Artists will oftentimes work with lawyers who specialize in intellectual property to ensure their copyright is registered properly. You, too, can get Copyright for your intellectual property if you don’t want others to use it freely. Let’s get to know the nature of Copyright and its types in more detail so that you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Copyright protection
Image by kalhh for Pixabay

1. What is Copyright exactly?

These laws exist to protect the creators of original works. The creative expressions of artists need to be protected from other people, as not everyone has pure intentions. Instead of creating their own work, some people choose to steal someone else’s and pass it off as their own. This way, they make a profit without actually doing the work. This can severely hurt the artist who created the work in the first place.

So, in order to keep the intellectual property truly theirs, the artist has a right to put a copyright on it. This way, they’ll be the only ones who can decide how their work is used and shared with an audience. This doesn’t mean that artists are the only ones that can ever have access to their creative expressions, though. For example, if a songwriter writes a song, a singer can sing it with their permission. In this case, an agreement that clearly states the conditions of use is needed.

We come across copyrighted material all the time without even realizing it. Copyright is also why you need to buy books, songs, and movies instead of just downloading them illegally.

2. Literary works

Literary works are defined as those who aren’t audiovisual. Instead, they are expressed in words or numbers, or even other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia. The nature of the material objects is irrelevant. In other words, the literary work could be expressed in books, manuscripts, periodicals, tapes, disks, cards, or records.

The literary works are otherwise termed as literature. This term refers to poems, essays, novels, stories, and everything in between. When it comes to other written work such as reference books, databases, and catalogs, they can also be eligible for Copyright.

Some other types of literary works that you can protect with Copyright include blog posts, online forum posts, emails, and even computer programmers. Virtually anything you write can be protected.

3. Dramatic works

copyright symbol
Images by Elias Schäfer for Pixabay


Dramatic works are one other form of literary works, so to say. But, dramatic works are considered to be those with or without words and music. The main point of dramatic works is that they can be performed in front of an audience. Plays, scripts, screenplays, choreographic (notations and shows), and even film scenarios are all considered to be dramatic works.

In short, if a work is intended to be performed dramatically in front of an audience and has been recorded in some form can be copyrighted. Those who have the copyrights of dramatic works can publish, reproduce, publicly perform, and even adapt their works.

4. Musical works

The music industry may be the one that’s most affected by copyright infringement. This is because people use music for personal benefit even when they’re not aware they’re breaking the law. For example, most people don’t even know that using a song in the background of their personal videos is a violation of a license.

One other problem that the music industry faces is plagiarism. For these reasons, it’s advisable to Copyright your musical intellectual property as soon as you can. You don’t have to worry about it being misused or taken advantage of. This can also explain why we need to pay for music if we want to listen to it on our phones.

When it comes to defining how much Copyright has power over musical works, we have to say that the Copyright can protect the instrumental component of the work as well as the words that go with it. Musical works should always have compulsory licensing once they’ve been released. This means that others can make their own versions of the song without asking the artist for permission. Now we can understand why song covers are so popular and why they’re not in violation of any licenses. Of course, it’s always important to actually give credit to the artist and/or songwriter.

5. Architectural works

Believe it or not, architectural designs also need to be protected. In this case, the design of a building and architectural blueprints will be protected by Copyright. As well as that, we can’t forget about architectural drawings. On top of this list, even buildings themselves can be protected.

Architecture is truly a work of art, no matter how practical its use. The architect is primarily an artist with a vision who needs to fit in all of these puzzle pieces together. Each building you see is a trademark of the artist and shouldn’t be misused in any way. There’s no reason why another building just like that should pop up somewhere else if the original architect isn’t behind it.

This is why, in the case of architectural copyrights, Copyright can protect the general form of the work, but also the arrangement and composition of spaces. In other words, even the elements and composition are completely the property of the artist or architect and nobody else.

When it comes to buildings themselves, they need to meet the general requirements if the architect wants them to be copyrighted. These general requirements state that a building can’t just be basically functional to be eligible for Copyright. Instead, it also needs to have an original design.

6. Sound recordings

Even though this wasn’t the first type of Copyright you may have thought of, sound recordings also fall under this category of things that can and should be protected. By the Copyright Act, they’re defined as works that result from the fixation of a series of sounds, be it of musical, spoken, or other nature. They do not include accompanying motion pictures or other audiovisual work.

Sound recordings differ from musical works, so don’t get fooled. They differ because the Copyright protects something else and not musical notes. The Copyright here protects the actual song recording and the actual melody of a song.

In other words, an actual recording of a song on a physical entity is considered to be a sound recording, and it is protected by Copyright. Sound recordings aren’t limited to just sounds, though. They also include sound effects, speeches, and even audiobooks.

7. Motion picture and other audiovisual works

Motion pictures and other audiovisual works are also eligible for Copyright. This is only natural, as the movie industry is huge, and there are tons of movies being made every year. All of them are going to need to be protected with Copyright so as to ensure nobody takes advantage of them. Aside from just motion pictures, we have other audiovisual work.

This involves anything and everything that combines images and sound, not just movies. Slideshows and video podcasts are one of the most typical examples of other audiovisual work. If we want to broaden the definition, we can say that audiovisual works are anything that’s meant to be presented visually. Whether it’s on a TV or computer screen, a projector, or anything remotely similar- it doesn’t matter.

This is the reason you can’t download movies and other audiovisual works from the internet for free. On the one hand, you are allowed to record shows on your TV if you intend to watch them later. This only becomes a copyright violation if you record the show to make copies of it and if you distribute it to others. If you’re selling the copies, you’re making an even bigger violation.

8. Artistic works

Artistic works are in no way going to be left to fend for themselves. In fact, artistic works might be those which are most commonly misused in today’s society. There are so many images and drawings on the internet that you could sometimes commit copyright infringement without even knowing it.

When we say “artistic works,” we mean pictorial, sculptural, and graphic works. So, no matter what kind of artist you are, you are eligible for proper design protection. Your work of art is your intellectual property, and with Copyright, no one can take it away from you. Nobody, but you decide how you share the artistic work and if you share it at all.

You have to agree that the definition of what falls under the category of works of art is rather narrow. Thanks to the Copyright Act of 1968, this definition was expanded to include a lot more than just the works we mentioned. So, works of art are also maps, plans, photographs, paintings, drawings, architectural plans for buildings, and so on. As technology has advanced, digital illustrations have also made their way into this group of protected artistic works.

9. Free use


After all of this talk about Copyright and its types, we have to mention that Copyright also has some limitations. These limitations are often referred to as “free use” and entail certain scenarios where asking for permission to use copyrighted material isn’t necessary. In short, it’s all about the purpose. Copyright exists so that no one other than the creator can make a profit from their own work. If you’re using the material for other purposes than to make a profit, it’s safe to say that you can use it without worry.

This is why the context of free use is usually tied to education. In this case, the teacher or the students don’t use the material to make money out of it. Instead, they use it to educate others about it. This is why you can find a lot of research papers and other school materials for free.

Libraries and archives are also allowed to use copyrighted material for the same purpose. As well as that, they may even photocopy the material for the purpose of preservation within the establishment. In this case, the materials can even be performed and used as a part of educating the public and enriching the community.

Outside the classroom, you can also use copyrighted material if you’re just storing backups of it. This mainly refers to software. Beware that, in this case, it’s mandatory to buy the original version of the software first.

Finally, copyright laws can never apply to specialized formats. Specialized formats are made for people with disabilities. Here. It’s allowed to reproduce and distribute the material.

The best way to know if something is copyrighted or not is to read the license. Every license will state exactly if the material is copyrighted or not. As well as that, it will have contact information of the person or persons who hold the Copyright.


As you can see, Copyright is a lot of things. There’s not a thing you can’t put a copyright on. It might be a long process, but it will definitely be worth it in the end. As an artist, you’ll protect your creative expression and be sure that no one can use it without your permission. If they do, you can rest easy knowing that you have the right to take legal action against the person.

As a user, you are now more aware of why Copyright is important and why certain things need to be protected. As well as that, you can pay more attention to Copyright now and avoid misusing someone’s work. We’re confident that your journey to Copyright has been an informative one and that you’re not fully capable of understanding the depth and importance of such protection. Stay safe and use material wisely!