A "copyright" is actually a "bundle of rights" that the creator of a work is entitled to control if the work is "an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression." This means that in order to be entitled to copyright protection, the work has to be something you created (and didn't copy from another work) and set down in some physical form, like in writing, on videotape, in a sound recording, in a computer program or on a computer screen. The "bundle of rights" that are included in copyright are the right to: (1) distribute the work, (2) reproduce (or make copies of) the work, (3) display the work (for example, a painting that you want to allow a museum to publicly display), (4) perform the work, and (5) create Derivative Works based upon the original work. Note that there is an exception to the general rule that the creator of the work owns the copyright in the work - see Work-for-Hire. Section 102 (b) of the United States Copyright Act states:
In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which is described, explained, illustrated or embodied in such a work. Ideas, methods, concepts, systems and devices are not entitled to copyright protection.
This language means that no one can monopolize an idea or subject matter under a claim of copyright. Put another way, copyright law protects the Expression of an idea but not the idea itself. Can you imagine if the people who were the first to write stories about a girl wanting to play basketball or about a boy and a girl falling in love were able to stop everyone else from writing stories about those subjects? It would make it really hard to create original works and would defeat the purpose of the copyright law, which is to promote the progress of the arts and to secure for the public the benefit of authors' creative activities.
A "patent" is a type of Intellectual Property that relates to inventions. Like Copyright, patents give the creators of inventions a certain "bundle of rights," including the exclusive rights to (1) make copies of the invention, (2) use the invention for whatever purposes it was intended, (3) import copies of the invention, (4) sell copies of the invention, and (5) offer copies of the invention for sale, all for up to 20 years. Inventions protected by patents include computer hardware, medicines, hybridized roses, and the design of athletic shoes or a bicycle helmet. An owner of a copyright has many Exclusive Rights, including the right to perform his or her own song (the Musical Composition) in public. These rights are known as "performing rights," and other users need Permission of the Copyright Owner to play the song on the radio or television, or in clubs, concerts, and amusement parks. Usually, the user is charged a fee called a Royalty. To make this easier, organizations called "performing rights societies" help control and collect the royalties paid for these performances on behalf of the songwriter or other copyright owners. There are 3 main societies in the United States that do this: ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated), and SESAC. Most foreign countries also have organizations that serve the same purpose.