Happy Pi Day!
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.
While we don’t have to define pie for you, we did look at the definition of pi in the dictionary. Pi is…
- the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet
- the name of the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter
- a transcendental number with a value rounded to eight decimal places of 3.14159265
And in my household, a day to enjoy a good homemade (sometimes store bought) pie!
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 and Pie
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. You may also like Copyright + Food: Photographing Food in Restaurants.