Common law copyright has reference to an individual's "right in his original, unpublished, intellectual productions," which are protected via the common law. Common law copyright antedates the copyright statutes and can furnish the creative artist adequate and complete protection within limits. The common law rights are protected independently of the statute until the creative artist has permitted the contents of his work to be communicated generally to the public. As a matter of fact, section 2 of the Copyright Code expressly provides that statutory copyright will not annul or limit the enforcement of common law rights at law or in equity. Similarly, it is believed that the applicable sections of the California Civil Code dealing with common law copyright "are but codifications of the common law."
Harry P. Warner,
Protection of the Content of Radio and Television Programs by Common Law Copyright,
3 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol3/iss2/13