Copyrights protect authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, performance, artistic and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. This means that you can receive a copyright for any writing you pen, software you write, or play you perform that is recorded. Authors receive common law copyright protection for their works once they are recorded on any tangible medium. But, to obtain a federally registered copyright, an application must be filed with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrights are owned by the creator (i.e. author, artist, programmer, etc.) unless they are for a work made for hire, by a full-time employee within their scope of employment, or there is an assignment to someone else.
Copyright owners have an exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies and perform or display the copyrighted work publicly. Copyrights protect the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine.
Of course, there are often specific exceptions to the above. If you have any questions or wish to discuss how this may impact your company, please contact an attorney at Wood Phillips.