Copyright — a federal protection granted to the author of a creative work — is commonly understood in contexts such as books, movies, photographs, and paintings. It’s clear to most people that, under normal circumstances, you can’t copy someone’s novel and publish it as your own, post someone else’s photo or painting on your own blog without the author’s permission, or create an unauthorized sequel to someone’s movie.
But did you know copyrights are not limited to words, pictures, music, and video?
For a work to be eligible for copyright protection, it must be the expression of an idea (not simply the idea itself, for ideas are not copyrightable), and it must be considered to have unique authorship (it cannot be an exact duplication of something else). Here are 2 intriguing types of work that do fall into these parameters and are, in fact, eligible for copyright protection.
1. Vessel Hull Design
Dating only as far back as 1998, the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act provides protection for — you guessed it — original ship hull designs.
While copyright registration for most of the more familiar types of works (music, text, movies) require a copy of the work itself to be submitted along with the application, the hull of a ship is understandably difficult to deliver to the US Copyright Office. For prohibitively large works such as this, the Copyright Office requires “identifying material” consisting of pictures and measurements.
2. Architectural Works
It seems odd to imagine a copyright on a building, but works of architecture can now be copyrighted by submitting the blueprints to the US Copyright Office, due to a series of modifications to copyright law throughout the centuries.
Works are architecture were introduced into copyright law almost as a fluke: the first copyright law specified that only books, maps, and charts could be protected; the next version broadened the to include “writings” by an “author”; the next version allowed for “drawings… of a scientific or technical nature”; only the next version after that specifically mentioned architectural drawings — but even so, the buildings themselves were not explicitly mentioned, only the drawings or blueprints themselves.
In 1989, when the United States joined the Berne Convention (an international set of copyright agreements), they were required to adopt the rules and standards of the convention — and among these requirements was that copyright would extend to the architectural works themselves, and not only the blueprints.