Ideas, Methods, or Systems
What Is Not Protected by Copyright
Copyright law does not protect ideas, methods, or systems. Copyright protection is therefore not available for ideas or procedures for doing, making, or
building things; scientific or technical methods or discoveries; business operations or procedures; mathematical principles; formulas or algorithms; or any
other concept, process, or method of operation.
Section 102 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the U.S. Code) clearly expresses this principle: “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of
authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”
Inventions are subject matter for patents, not copyrights. For information about patent laws, contact [...] www.uspto.gov
What Is Protected by Copyright
Copyright protection extends to a description, explanation, or illustration of an idea or system, assuming that the requirements of copyright law are met.
Copyright in such a case protects the particular literary or pictorial _expression_ chosen by the author. But it gives the copyright owner no exclusive rights in the
idea, method, or system involved.
Suppose, for example, that an author writes a book explaining a new system for food processing. The copyright in the book, which comes into effect at the
moment the work is fixed in a tangible form, prevents others from copying or distributing the text and illustrations describing the author’s system. But it will
not give the author any right to prevent others from adapting the system itself for commercial or other purposes or from using any procedures, processes, or
methods described in the book.