Legal Lingo Part V: What Works Deserve the Circle C {Copyright}?

Mar 23 2016

by Avard Turner, J.D., LL.M.

©Kathryn McCrary Photography Atlanta Travel Photographer Waiting on Martha-63

(“Original works in a tangible form” at Petite Maison and a copyrighted photograph by Kathryn McCrary for Waiting on Martha and The Southern C)

I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to this year’s Southern C Summit.  I attended last year and was blown completely away by the sensory and cerebral overload!  However, I have to make a confession,  there was so much creativity and design and pattern and photography and expression, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are they protecting that creative work?  Do they know what that’s worth?”  Hopefully, this will help shed a little light on what can be protected.  If anything you are working on fits or if you find yourself nodding yes to the points made, then you have created something worth protecting.  You may want to read on.

What works are worthy of placing the “circle C” on them?

This is a question that comes up a lot among creatives.  What get copyright protection?  According to federal law, the short answer is any “original works of authorship” that are “fixed in a tangible form of expression.”  These can either be published or unpublished. Sounds lovely and eloquent, but really, what in the world does it mean?? Well, let me see if I can help here.   First, it has to be your work.  So, yes copying is out; inspiration is another chapter for another day.  It really is simple, sort of. If you copy, straight up copy, someone else’s design then it is not original. It’s not your work or authorship.  Second, it must be fixed in a tangible form of expression.  I hear, almost on a daily basis, “they stole my idea; they copied my idea.”  And unfortunately, on almost a daily basis, I have to continue to figure out a way to politely explain, that ideas do not receive copyright protection.  It’s the unique, original expression fixed in a tangible form (meaning it’s not just a thought in our head that we are going to get around to in a few years) that is protection worthy.  Still confused? It’s okay.  It’s a pretty tricky area of the law!

What specific categories receive copyright protection?

There are several general areas that lawmakers have recognized are worthy of copyright protection.  There are roughly eight broad categories: literary works; musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works.

So now the questions become, do you know where YOUR creative works fit into the law?  Do they fit into more than one area?  Do you have several works that are part of a collection?  If you are creating something, unless you are outright copying, which, I know, you are not, then you have works that are worthy of copyright protection.  You know what that mean, right?  You better be using that “Circle c” on all of it!  For questions regarding copyright registration see my previous blog post here.


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Avard Turner, J.D., LL.M. View More Blog Posts from this Author

Angie Avard Turner is an attorney who exclusively represents clients in the creative arts industries including retailers, wholesalers, artists, photographers, event planners, bloggers, and other creative service providers.  She is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia, but she is able to handle copyright and trademark issues nationally.  For more information regarding her practice, visit­­­. Angie is also the owner and creative director behind Hype Strype, a fine stationery company that caters to those who love bright colors and patterns. 

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