If you like to design architectural structures, write books, music, or poetry, paint, take pictures, sculpt, or put together any kind of visual images that are helpful to people or aesthetically pleasing, then sooner or later, you may create something that requires copyright protection.
The law says that when you reduce the "expression of an idea" to a tangible form, it is automatically copyrighted. However, if anyone ever infringes on that copyright, you cannot recover statutory damages unless you have registered the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office in advance.
What is Copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.
What can by copyrighted?
You cannot copyright an "idea," but you can copyright the unique expression of an idea. For example, let's say you came up with the spectacular idea of taking a picture of the sun going down on the beach with palm trees silhouetted in the foreground. You could copyright this picture. But you could not prevent other people from taking similar photographs and selling them. You can only protect the specific photograph you took. A painter could not paint the exact same picture you took, but he/she could go to the same beach and paint a similar picture.
The following categories of works can be copyrighted:
(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings;
(8) architectural works.
(9) computer programs (may be registered as a "literary work");
(10) compilations (may be registered as a "literary work")
(11) maps (may be registered as a pictorial, graphic or sculptural work")
(12) architectural works (may be registered as a pictorial, graphic or sculptural work").