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Titles, Words and Short Phrases (Q&A)

Co-author Gerald M. Levine

Titles, Words and Short Phrases are not copyrightable although contextualized they may become so.

The answer is found in the Code of Federal Regulations, 37 C.F.R. Sec. 202.1.  Subsection (a) provides that the following “examples of works [are] not subject to copyright and applications for registration of such works cannot be entertained”:

Words and short phrases such as names, titles, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering or coloring; mere listing of ingredients or contents.

This code provision states the general rule. However, whether any string of words is copyrightable depends on its an expressive  quality. Appropriating sentences from a copyrighted work is likely to be an infringement unless justified by fair use.

Copyrightability will be discussed further in a later post.


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