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Copyright Act: Primary Sources

This guide is to help law students who are researching the Copyright Act through the identification of primary and secondary sources of law

Case Law

Federal courts have original jurisdiction in matters of copyright law. To search federal cases involving copyright consult the following:

"Federal"→"By Area of Law"→"Copyright Cases, Federal"

Federal Intellecutal Property (FIP-CS)

Intellectual Property Law Resource Center→Copyright Law→Search USPQ Cases

Administrative Decisions and Government Websites

What is the Copyright Act of 1976?

Most rules for copyright law in the U.S. are within the Copyright Act of 1976. The following are some of the key provisions:

Section Title Content
§101 Definitions This section contains the important definitions for understanding what is and what is not covered by copyright law.  Among the important definitions in this section are "copies," "collective work," "derivative work," "display," "fixed," "joint work," "perform," "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works," "publication," "publicly," "useful article," and "work made for hire."
§102 Subject Matter of Copyright Lists eight categories of works of authorship, specifies that copyright protection requires originality and fixation, and excludes ideas, proceduress, processes, methods, and discoveries.
§106 Exclusive Rights in CopyrightedWorks Lists the rights held by copyright owners, including the right to reproduce, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies of work, to perform the work publicly, and to display the work publicly.
§106(A) Rights of Certain Authors to Attribution and Integrity Sets out the moral rights protections for particular visual works of recognized stature under the Visual Artists Rights Act.
§107 Limitations on Exclusive Rights/Fair Use Codifies the four factor fair use test from the common law.
§110 Limitations on Exclusive Rights/ Exemption of Certain Performances and Displays Provides several specific safe harbors for the performance and display of copyrighted works
§117 Limitations on Exclusive Rights/Computer Programs Create certain exceptions that alow users of computer software without infringing on the software copyright
§201 Ownership of Copyright Assigns copyright ownership to "authors"
§203 Termination of Transfers and Licenses Granted by the Author Governs termination of transfers of copyright for transfers executed after January 1, 1978
§302, §303, & §304 Duration of Copyright Sets the length of copyright protection. Incoporates the 20 year extension of copyright under the Copyright Term Extension Act

Refresher: How Our Laws Are Made

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Legislative History

Legislative histories are the best place to search for legislative intent.  For more information on compiling documents to determine legislative intent, please see the "Legislative History Research Guide" provided by the Georgetown Law Library.

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