Copyright protection and types of creations

The need for fixation in a tangible medium of expression.
A creation that remains in the ” mind” of its author cannot be protected by copyright. There is a fixation requirement. Thus, a simple idea for a painting is not protected, whereas the painting itself, once created, will be. The materialised creation itself is protected and not the idea behind it. For this reason, it is not possible to obtain “exclusivity” on a creative idea: anyone can be inspired by what exists, as long as no infringement is committed.

The creation must be unique to its author, it must be an “imprint of his/her personality”. When it comes to utilitarian works (such as databases, software, etc.), we tend to talk about novelty, but in all cases, the author must make a creative effort of his/her own. Otherwise, originality would be lacking and the creation in question would not be protected by copyright. In practice, many creations of different forms and genres will be protected by copyright as soon as this creative effort is perceived.
For example, a photograph, even if the subject matter is common, will be protected by copyright if a creative effort is made in taking the picture, in the intention to obtain a specific luminosity, etc.

No matter the merit, quality or genre
Copyright is not confined to the “fine arts”, far from it. Any human creation will be considered an intellectual work, whether it is deemed to be beautiful or not: artistic appreciation is entirely irrelevant. Nor is there any relation to the time spent, if the creative effort is evident, nor to the permanent or ephemeral character.

Some examples
Literary and artistic creations are varied, so are their mediums. Provided that the criteria of originality and fixation are respected, the following can be protected by copyright:

  • Logos, images, photographs, designs of all kinds.
  • Video montages, clips, films, animated images, GIFs, etc.
  • Music, audio, lyrics, compositions, …
  • Graphic arts, sculptures, exhibition layout, shop layout, etc.
  • Multimedia works, websites, software, …

Proof of copyright: anteriority and authorship
The law provides that copyright protection exists by the sole fact of the author’s creation. However, the author must be able to prove that he/she is at the origin of the creation! Therefore, it is vital to obtain proof of anteriority such as a certificate. This allows you to oppose any person with a certain date on which you were indeed in possession of the creation, and therefore before those who would like to deny it to you.

No exclusivity on an invention
Copyright is not patent law: it does not confer exclusivity on an invention as such and does not allow its inventor to prevent others from copying it, simply because it is prior art. In fact, a patent is necessary to obtain a title that can be used against third parties, for everything that relates to new inventions likely to be industrialised.

In practice, however, there is an important interest in obtaining proof of anteriority for an invention, such as a certificate. Indeed, the French Intellectual Property Code provides for a “right of prior personal possession” which gives crucial importance to the date on which the inventor owned his/her invention.
-> For details, see the definition on the Law Portal.