While all those forms of expression can be copyrighted, an actual idea cannot be protected by a copyright. The actual content of an author's copyrighted work, such as information or ideas, can be reproduced by anybody.
Who Can Register a Copyright
Authors need not apply explicitly to obtain the copyrights to their work. A copyright automatically exists when a person creates unique material that is subject to copyright laws. The minute an author writes a book, for instance, he of she automatically owns the copyright to that work. Legally there is no requirement to register a copyright.
The only catch to this seemingly convenient legislation is the fact that the owner of a copyright cannot file a copyright infringement suit within the United States unless the copyright is registered with the Copyright Office. Therefore, your copyright's protective value is very limited until you actually register it.
Rights a Copyright Gives Its Owner and How Long These Rights Last
A copyright gives you the exclusive right to reproduce, sell, license, display, perform, and distribute your work. A copyright is an asset, and you can sell your copyright to someone, you may license certain people to use or publish your work in return for regular payments, or you may choose to limit the use of your work to yourself. If another person or entity reproduces or sells your work without your consent, you have the right to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
How to Register a Copyright on Your Own
For detailed information on registering copyrights, we recommend The Copyright Handbook by Stephen Fishman (Nolo Press). The book provides detailed information on making copyrights work for you and is tailored to those who do not have extensive experience in working with them. Extensive information can also be found at the U.S. Copyright Office Home Page on the World Wide Web (lcweb.loc.gov/copyright). The Copyright Office web site, like all web sites, is a fantastic resource for information, because it is updated often and contains the most up-to-date news available.