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

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804.6 (B) Creative Expression

804.6 (B) Creative Expression

A dramatic work must contain a sufficient amount of creative expression.

Words and short phrases, such as names, titles, and slogans, are not copyrightable because they lack a sufficient amount of authorship. Thus, the title of a dramatic work or dialog that consists of only several words or phrases is not registrable. 37 C.F.R. § 202.1 (A); see also Chapter 300, Section 313.4 (B) and 313.4 (C).

A mere idea for a dramatic work–such as “boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with someone else”–is not copyrightable because mere ideas are common property. See Zambito v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 613 F. Supp. 1107, 1112 (E.D.N.Y 1985) (“That treasure might be hidden in a cave inhabited by snakes, that fire might be used to repel the snake, that birds might frighten an intruder in the jungle, and that a weary traveler might seek solace in a tavern … are … simply too general to be protectable.”).

Sc√®nes √† faire are defined as elements of a dramatic work, “which necessarily follow from a common theme,” such as stock characters, settings, or events that are common to a particular subject matter or medium. Reyher v. Children’s Television Workshop, 533 F.2d 87, 91 (2d Cir. 1976) (emphasis added). These types of elements are too commonplace to be copyrightable. For more information concerning Sc√®nes √† faire, see Chapter 300, Section 313.4(J).

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