Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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313.4 (H) Characters


313.4 (H) Characters


Although the copyright law does not protect the name or the general idea for a character, a work that depicts or describes a particular character may be registered if it contains a sufficient amount of original authorship.


A registration for a visual art work, a literary work, or a work of the performing arts that depicts or describes a character covers the expression set forth in the deposit copy(ies), but it does not cover the character per se. In other words, the copyright in the registered work protects the author’s expression of the character, but it does not protect the mere concept of the character. The copyright in the character itself is limited to the artistic rendition of the character in visual form or the literary delineation of the character’s specific attributes in textual form. (The trademark law may provide additional protection for the character’s name or other attributes if the character is sufficiently distinctive and is used to identify the source of the trademark owner’s goods or services.)


For a further discussion of characters, see Chapter 800, Section 804.3 (B) and Chapter 900, Section 911.


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