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Law About Copyright

Best Bet

U.S. Copyright Office. The best website for copyright information, it includes FAQs, links to legislation (current and proposed), regulations, information on how to for a copyright, international copyright sites, information about searching for copyrighted material, fees, and much, much more.

Federal Laws

The Copyright & Patent Clause, Art. I, s.8, cl.8 of the U.S. Constitution empowers the U.S. Congress "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries".

17 U.S. Code. U.S. copyright laws.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 and summary of the Act from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998

Federal Regulations

37 CFR Parts 201-270 (Copyright regulations) Also known as Circular 96, they are published in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Treaties and Other International Agreements of Which the United States is a Party

In chronological order..

International Copyright Relations of the United States. Copyright Circular 38a lists the countries with which are parties to specific multilateral agreements or bilateral relationships. The list indicates which agreements each country has signed and the date each agreement took effect.

Universal Copyright Convention (UCC Geneva, 1952). Adopted in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1952, it was developed as an alternative for those states which disagreed with the Berne Convention, but still wanted to participate in some form of multilateral copyright protection. The effective date for the United States was September 16, 1955.

Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms (1971), or Geneva Phonograms Convention. It granted record producers the international right to block imports of counterfeit music recordings, and to take action against distributors and retailers who sold them. The effective date for the United States was March 10, 1974.

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris text, 1971). The Berne Convention requires signatories to recognize the copyright of works of authors from other signatory countries in the same way as it recognized the copyright of its own nationals. It also requires that member states provide strong minimum copyright standards for copyright law. First accepted in Bern, Switzerland, in 1886, it became effective in the United States on March 1, 1989.

Universal Copyright Convention (UCC Paris, 1971). Protection under U.S. Copyright Law is expressly required for works published by the United Nations, by U.N. specialized agencies and by the Organization of American States. The effective date for the United States was July 10, 1974.

Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs, 1994), part of GATT 1994. This agreement is administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and sets down minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property (IP) regulation as applied to nationals of other WTO members. The effective date for the United States was January 1, 1995.

WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT, 1996). World Intellectual Property Organization is a United Nations agency dedicated to the use of intellectual property The effective date in the United States was March 6, 2002.

Rome International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (1961). The agreement extended copyright protection for the first time from the author of a work to the creators and owners of particular, physical manifestations of intellectual property, such as audiocassettes or DVDs The effective date in the United States was May 20, 2002.

WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT, 1996). WPPT was adopted with an objective to develop and maintain the protection of the rights of performers and producers of phonograms in a manner as effective and uniform as possible. The effective date in the United States was May 20, 2002.


U.S. Copyright Office forms

Information Circulars and Factsheets from the U.S. Copyright Office

Other Web Sources

Copyright in General

10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, Berkman Center for Internet & Society. It is designed to help you understand the protections given to online activities by the First Amendment and intellectual property laws.

Copyright and Fair Use, Stanford University Libraries. This website offers well organized access to copyright law materials

Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). Serving the interests of those who supply content, the CCC is a global rights broker for in- and out-of-print materials. It facilitates getting permission, licensing your own content, registering copyright, etc.

The copyright handbook : what every writer needs to know, Stephen Fishman. Nolo Press, 2011. Requires Library Card for access.

Copyright Law in the United States, Bitlaw. This website has clear summaries of the various elements of copyright law in the U.S.

Copyright Renewal Database, Stanford University. This database makes searchable the copyright renewal records received by the US Copyright Office between 1950 and 1992 for books published in the US between 1923 and 1963. Note that the database includes ONLY U.S. Class A (book) renewals.

Copyright Timeline, Association of Research Libraries (ARL). A history of copyright in the United States, this comprehensive timeline begins with the 18th century and includes references to major changes in copyright law made by Congress, the courts and other organizations.

Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials, online & off, by Richard Stim. Nolo Press, 2013. Requires Library Card for access.

Lifespan of Copyright Protection [chart], Cornell University. The chart shows the lifespan of copyright protection by type of work. (.pdf version)

The public domain : how to find & use copyright-free writings, music, art & more, by Stephen Fishman. Nolo Press, 2012. Requires Library Card for access.

Search Copyright Records, U.S. Copyright Office. Search online for works registered and documents recorded by the U.S. Copyright Office since January 1, 1978. It includes tips on how to find records of works registered prior to January 1, 1978.

Fair Use

Fair Use, Wikipedia. A good basic discussion of the doctrine of 'fair use' which includes links to cited laws, cases, and other materials.

Fair Use Checklist, Columbia University Libraries/Information Services Copyright Advisory Office. A helpful tool (with a link to the Fair Use Checklist) used to determine whether actions are within the limits of fair use under U.S. copyright law (17 USC s.107)

The 'Fair Use' Rule: When Use of Copyrighted Material is Acceptable, Nolo Press. In some situations, you may make limited use of another's copyrighted work without asking permission or infringing on the original copyright.

Guidelines on the Fair Use of Copyrighted Works by Law Libraries (Rev. 2001), Am. Association of Law Libraries.


Major copyright decisions from the United States, Wikipedia. In chart form, Wikipedia lists, links and provides the principle findings of each major U.S. copyright decision.

Major copyright decisions, world-wide, Wikipedia. Major world-wide copyright cases are listed by country and linked on this webpage.

Selected Print Sources

Copyright Law in a Nutshell, by Mary LaFrance. West, 2011. (Nutshell series)

Copyright Litigation Handbook. West, 2006-

Nimmer on Copyright : a treatise on the law of literary, musical and artistic property, and the protection of ideas, by Melville B. Nimmer. M. Bender, 1968-to date. This publication is also available online at each Trial Court Law Library.

Protecting and Enforcing Copyright, by Lisa M. Tittemore and Nicole Rizzo Smith. MCLE, c2008.

Substantial Similarity in Copyright Law, by Robert C. Osterberg and Eric C. Osterberg. PLI, 2003-to date.