Tangible, original expression. This means, for example, that a verbal presentation that is not recorded cannot be copyrighted. However, anything that is tangible can be copyrighted. There are three fundamental requirements for something to be copyrighted:
The item must be fixed in some way. The fixation must be almost anything. For example, a piece of paper, a computer disk, a CD, or a DVD are all legitimate forms of fixation.
The work must be original. Originality includes a novel or a student's email message to a professor. Both are considered examples of original expression. It is not necessary for the work to be completely original. Works may be combined, adapted, or transformed in new ways that make them eligible for copyright.
→ Minimal Creativity:
The work must include something that is above and beyond the original. Verbatim use is not considered original. Reference to the original work that is used to discuss a new concept would be considered original, however. Creativity need only be extremely slight for the work to be eligible for protection.
What cannot be copyrighted?
Ideas in the public domain.
Facts in the public domain.
Words, names, slogans, or other short phrases also cannot be copyrighted. However, slogans, for example, can be protected by trademark law.
Government works, which include:
Works created by federal government employees as part of their official responsibility.
Works for which copyright wasn't obtained or copyright has expired (extremely are!).
What does copyright protect?
Copyright provides authors fairly substantial control over their work, although in order to publish their works many authors assign those rights to their publishers. The four basic protections are:
The right to make copies of the work
The right to sell or otherwise distribute copies of their work
The right to prepare new works based on the protected work
The right to perform the protected work (such as a stage play) in public
Fair use is a doctrine in the law of the United States that permits limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder. Fair use is the most significant limitation on the copyright holder's rights. Deciding whether the use of a work is fair IS NOT a science. There are no set guidelines that are universally accepted. Instead, the individual who wants to use a copyrighted work must weigh four factors:
The purpose and character of the use.
The nature of the copyrighted work.
The amount and substantiality of the portion used.
The effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work.