Is the Title of Your Film or Video Copyrightable?

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Is the title to a video or photograph copyrightable? The short answer is no. Below is a short explanation of why titles to videos are not copyrightable.

Titles do not have copyright protection.

Copyright law provides protection only to the original work of authorship[1]. That means your creativity acquires protection and legal status once it is fixed in tangible form of a book or picture or video.  An idea is not copyrightable.  The Copyright Office has made a bright-line policy determination that titles, names, slogans, or short phrases and mere listing of ingredients, no matter how clever, do not posses enough original expression to warrant copyright protection.  Many of these things, however, may be protected via trademark law.

What about trademark protection?

The title of your film or video can be your brand identifier and may offer trademark protection in certain circumstances. Trademark law offers protection to words, slogans, logos, and designs against confusingly similar uses. The title of a single book or film will generally not be protected under trademark law, but you may be able to obtain trademark protection for a title if it is used to brand a series of films, books, toys, video games, etc.

For example, “Jurassic Park” originally was only a title for a novel written by Michael Crichton, but it was later built into a successful media franchise consisting of trademark protection for novels, films, comics, and video games.

Let’s look at a hypothetical. You create a series of videos called Art of Flight. Each video illustrates a different action sport genre – motocross, base jumping, snowboarding, skiing, etc. The series of videos become very well known and obtain secondary meaning, eg., people associate the phrase “Art of Flight” with the videos. You may obtain a trademark for Art of Flight and protect it’s value by preventing others from using it, eg., you could stop a company from selling a television series with the same title.

If you have any questions regarding copyrights or trademark opportunities for your work, please contact one of our team members at [email protected]

By accessing and reading this blog, you acknowledge and understand that no attorney-client relationship has been formed and you further acknowledge and understand that this blog is not intended to constitute legal advice. Legal advice and counsel requires a fact-specific analysis of your particular issues, and you should thus obtain legal advice directly and individually from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction, if appropriate.

[1] §17 U.S.C.