For instance, the Warcraft Universe contains fictional races (various), such as the Orcs, Humans, Night Elves, Blood Elves, Tauren, etc. Are these races considered "original works" to fall under copyright law?

  • You'd be hard pushed to copyright the idea of a Human or an Elf. Jan 6 at 0:15
  • @WeatherVane of course. Copyright does not protect ideas.
    – phoog
    Jan 6 at 9:20

Yes, but …

Most fantasy races you named are part of long-standing folklore and any copyright the author had has long since expired. Orcs are from Germanic folklore, elves from Celtic, humans are, well, human and I don’t know what a Tauran is.

Now, the particular imagery and description applied to these races by Warcraft is covered by copyright. So generic orcs aren’t covered by copyright but orcs specific to Warcraft or Tolkien or Dungeons and Dragons are.

  • Tolkien apparently never depicted orcs. A video game's image of an orc would not infringe on the copyright in Tolkien's textual description of orcs.
    – phoog
    Jan 6 at 9:28
  • In addition to copyright, consider trade marks.
    – o.m.
    Jan 7 at 18:04
  • I did not mention trademarks in the original post, but apparently their specific depictions of elves (night elves) may be trademarked, but I want to confirm that.
    – vaunnaut
    Jan 10 at 0:25

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