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Copyright Law

Principles

The copyright law protects original works. Examples of such works are paintings, books, articles, speeches, study materials, songs, and software. Databases may also be protected by copyrights.

For a work to be defensible, it needs to be tangible. A speech, for instance, that is not recorded or otherwise documented cannot be copyrighted. The work must also contain an expression of an idea, since an idea in itself is not defensible under the law. For instance, formulas cannot be protected by the law (although they may be defensible under the patent laws). Another example is Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: The idea itself (the plot)—a love story between a boy and a girl from incompatible families which has a tragic ending—cannot be copyrighted (indeed, this idea has been often imitated as, for instance, in West Side Story). The particular words chosen by the writers of West Side Story to express the plot are protected however, and cannot be used without authorization.


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