What cannot be protected by copyright?
There are several categories of things which are not entitled to copyright protection:
1. Federal copyright law will not protect any work which is not fixed in a tangible form (for example, if you give an improvised speech that was not written or recorded, it will not be protected by copyright law). However, in some states, common law (law created by the courts, rather than by statute) offers some limited protection to unfixed works
2. Copyright law will not protect any titles, names, short phrases or slogans (this is why there can multiple unrelated movies with the same title). The basic justification for this rule is that these types of things are not sufficiently original. But these things may be protectable by trademark laws.
3. Copyright law will not protect any ingredient or content listings.
4. Copyright law will not protect any fact, idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle or discovery, no matter what form it might be in. However, the expression of an idea, procedure, etc. might be protectable – so while the science in a science text book is not protected by copyright law, the way in which the science is arranged and presented may be protectable.
5. Copyright law will not protect a work that entirely lacks any original authorship (for example, a calendar or height/weight chart has no originality and cannot be protected).
6. “Scenes a faire,” standard characters, story elements, etc., cannot be protected by copyright law.