Pi(e) Is Not Protected By Copyright Laws

Pi(e) Is Not Protected By Copyright Laws

This post celebrates Pi Day by examining the copyright protection of numbers and, of course, pie. Copyright protects creations that are fixed in some form and does not protect ideas and concepts.

Copyright Does Not Protect Ideas

One common thread amongst copyright laws around the world is that copyright law does not protect ideas. What’s protected is the expression of an idea and not the idea itself. For instance, a book on how to make your own outdoor pizza oven is protected by copyright, but anyone can use the ideas in the book and instructions to build their own pizza oven. You could even write a blog post or a whole book on constructing your own pizza oven as long as you do not copy the words used in the first book.

Copyright Protection and Pi(e)

Similar to ideas, facts or factual information, history and numbers are not protected by copyright. Pi (the number 3.141592653589793238…) and pie that you eat are both not protected by copyright. The ingredients in a recipe are not protected by copyright, however the words used in the instructions on how to make the pie are protected by copyright. Anyone can make the pie, or take a photograph of the pie that they make. (The photograph will be protected by copyright.)

What Does Copyright Protect?

Copyright law protects many different creations and kinds of content. It protects literary, artistic, dramatic, and musical works, as well as sound recordings, videos, and films.  It protects such diverse things as interoffice memorandums, print and e-books, images, translations, website content, sculptures, and films.  However, copyright does not protect ideas; it protects only the embodiments of these ideas. Once those ideas are in a fixed form, for example, a short story written in prose, then the story is protected by copyright. See Copyright 101 for more information on how copyright law works.


Sign up for our free weekly copyright email with copyright tips and information

See our awesome Copyright eTutorials


  1. Lesley says:

    Hi Jennie, a pattern that is protected is only protected against reproduction of the pattern. Anyone can make the item in the pattern and use it for any purpose.

  2. Jennie says:

    My question is somewhat tangential, but this post reminds me of craft patterns. In knitting patterns, often the designer will stipulate that because the pattern is protected by copyright, people can only use the pattern to make items for personal use and not for sale. Is that true?

  3. Nancy Speisser says:

    I wish I had this last Thursday. Our students celebrated Pi Day. This would have made a great teachable moment!

Comments are now closed for this article.

About | Contact