A copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the works (such as a 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 description or from making and using the machine. In the United States, copyrights are registered by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress and not the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly. In addition to artistic works, many businesses use copyrights to protect instruction books and software.
It is no longer necessary to register your copyrights in order to receive protection. However, registration provides enhanced “statutory” damages. Registration is inexpensive and easy. We often provide training to our clients on copyright registration procedures as part of our intellectual property consulting services.