A copyright protects original works of expression. The creator of the work, known as the author, is granted certain exclusive rights in the work, including the right to display the work, make copies of the work, perform the work (where appropriate) and make derivatives of the work. A copyright can be obtained for: literary works (such as novels, stories, screen plays); musical works (words and music separate or together); dramatic works (such as stage plays, including musicals with accompanying music); dances and pantomimes; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (paintings, murals, mosaics, sculpture, etc,); motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings, and architectural works.
Under current U.S. law, a copyright is created in an original work of expression as soon as it is affixed in a tangible medium. This means that the creator of the work (known as the author in copyright terminology) automatically gets certain copyright protection as soon as the work is permanently affixed. For a writer this means when it is written down in any form, longhand, typewriter, even on a computer.
While a copyright is automatically created, an author gains important rights through registration. These include the ability to sue for copyright infringement in Federal Court, and the ability to collect statutory damages.
Additional information about copyrights can be found at the Copyright Office Website: www.copyright.gov. The Copyright Office Website (unlike the Patent Office Website) is very user friendly.