Creative works come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be written, performed, video recorded, or audio recorded. However, not all creative works have the same level of protection and some cannot receive any type of copyright protection.

If you’re working on creative work and haven’t researched whether or not it can receive copyright protection, we can help. For more information, contact the copyright law attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett.

What Types of Creative Works Cannot Receive Copyright Protection?

Creative works that cannot be protected by copyright include:

  • Facts 
  • Ideas 
  • Processes
  • Systems 
  • Works that are in the public domain (You can copyright original sections, but anyone can quote or utilize the portions of your work taken from the public domain property.)

You cannot copyright facts and ideas because they cannot be owned, and therefore, cannot be claimed as someone’s work. Processes and systems can only be copyrighted if they are expressed in a tangible form. This does not stop someone from using the system or process if they gain access to the document. Otherwise, anyone is free to use the process or system without permission.

Many of these works may feel creative because you came up with them, but in reality, they are not. For example, facts are things you discover, and if anyone could have found something, you can’t necessarily own it, at least, not as a creative work. 

How Can You Protect These Works?

Many of these works may not be creative, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way you can own them. Some of these include trademarks and patents. 

  • A trademark work is a word, phrase, or logo that is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that is used to identify a specific good or service from a specific company. 
  • A patent is a legal document that gives an inventor exclusive rights to make, use, and sell their invention for some time. 

By applying for either a trademark or patent, creators can protect their work from being used without permission, but neither is permanent. Patents expire after a set amount of time, and trademarks lapse if you are not consistently and publicly using them.

More Ways to Protect Your Creative Works

There are also other ways to protect one’s creative works beyond copyright protection. Non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, can be used to protect confidential information from being shared without the creator’s permission. For instance, if you have an editor for your writing – reporting on public information, opinion pieces, writing pieces on a public domain property, etc  – you can have them sign an NDA. This is usually only a short-term solution because they don’t have to follow an NDA once it’s public information, such as after a release date or leak.

How to Get These Protections

Save for NDAs, which you can have created by attorneys like those at Emerson Thomson Bennett, you will have to file and register your work with the government.

The U.S. Copyright Office certifies, approves, documents, and enforces protection for creative works. This gives you grounds to sue for damages if someone else uses your work without proper authorization or permission. 

How Can Emerson Thomson Bennett Help You Protect Your Intellectual Property?

Copyrights for creative works are an incredibly powerful protection that creators should take advantage of. But the system isn’t perfect. You can file a copyright for a work that can’t be copyrighted, and it may be ‘approved,’ but the second it’s challenged, you may learn that this was an error and that your work has no protection. Ensure you’re filing for the right protection with the help of the experienced attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett. Contact us for help today.



We provide complete intellectual property representation to business owners, inventors and artists in all matters related to the establishment and protection of domestic and international patents, trademarks and copyrights. Attorneys at our firm also serve as in-house IP counsel for companies whose needs do not call for a full-time internal position.


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