Copyright Law FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions about copyright law, particularly that of the United States.
This FAQ about Copyright Law
was compiled and written by Terry Carroll
with numerous contributions by others.
DISCLAIMER - PLEASE READ.
This article is Copyright 1994 by Terry Carroll. It may be freely
redistributed in its entirety provided that this copyright notice is not
removed. It may not be sold for profit or incorporated in commercial
documents without the written permission of the copyright holder.
Permission is expressly granted for this document to be made available
for file transfer from installations offering unrestricted anonymous file
transfer on the Internet. Permission is further granted for this
document to be made available for file transfer in the data libraries of
associated with the following Compuserve Information Services fora: the
Legal Forum, the Desktop Publishing Forum, the Show Business Forum, and
the Ideas, Invention and Innovation Forum. This article is provided as is
without any express or implied warranty. Nothing in this article
represents the views of Santa Clara University or of the Santa Clara
Computer and High Technology Law Journal.
While all information in this article is believed to be correct at the
time of writing, this article is for educational purposes only and does
not purport to provide legal advice. If you require legal advice, you
should consult with a legal practitioner licensed to practice in your
Terry Carroll, the FAQ-maintainer, is a computer professional, and is
currently (January 1994) a student in his final semester at Santa Clara
University School of Law, is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Santa Clara
Computer and High Technology Law Journal, and is seeking employment as an
If you have any additions, corrections, or suggestions for improvement to
this FAQ, please send them to one of the following addresses, in order of
I will accept suggestions for questions to be added to the FAQ, but
please be aware that I will be more receptive to questions that are
accompanied by answers. :-)
I'd like to acknowledge the following people who reviewed early drafts of
this FAQ and made valuable suggestions for modifications, or otherwise
contributed to the FAQ:
Richard A. Anderson email@example.com
Thomas Deardorff firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuart P. Derby email@example.com
Mary Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org
David Lassner email@example.com
George Mitchell firstname.lastname@example.org
Ronald Naylor email@example.com
Carol Odlum firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura A. Pitta email@example.com
Hank Roth firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig A. Summerhill email@example.com
Peter Stott firstname.lastname@example.org
David W. Tamkin email@example.com
Glenn S. Tenney firstname.lastname@example.org
Marina ___ [full name unknown] email@example.com
- 2.1) What is a copyright?
- A copyright is a right of intellectual property, whereby authors obtain, ...
- 2.2) What is "public domain?"
- In contrast to copyright is public domain. A work in the public domain ...
- 2.3) I just wrote a great program/novel/song/whatever. How can I get a copyright on it?
- Good news. You already have. In the United States, as in most nations, ...
- 2.4) How long does a copyright last? Does it need to be renewed?
- The law of copyright duration has undergone many twists and turns. There ...
- 2.5) What advantages are there to registering my work with the Copyright Office?
- In order to sue for infringement, with some exceptions, your work must be ...
- 2.6) How can I register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office?
- To register a copyright, file the appropriate form with the U.S. ...
- 2.7) What advantages are there to including a copyright notice on my work?
- As noted in section 2.3, under U.S. law, a work is copyrighted as soon as ...
- 2.8) Can I ever use a copyrighted work without permission of the copyright holder, or "What is 'fair use?'"
- In any analysis of copyright, it's important to remember the law's ...
- 2.9) Fair use - the legal basis of the doctrine.
- Section 2.8, above, describes fair use in a nutshell. This follow-on ...
- 3.1) Who owns the copyright to something I wrote at work, me or my company?
- That depends on a lot of things. Normally, you are the author of the ...
- 3.3) Is copyright infringement a crime, or a civil matter?
- It's always at least a civil matter (a tort). 17 U.S.C. 501(b) details ...
- 3.4) What is the statute of limitation for copyright infringement?
- For both civil suits and criminal prosecutions, the statute of ...
- 3.5) Can the government be sued for copyright infringement?
- Yes. The United States has expressly waived its immunity to suit for ...
- 3.6) Can the government copyright its works?
- This one has to be taken slowly, and we'll look at federal and state ...
- 3.7) Can I legally make a cassette copy of a musical CD for my own use, so I can play it in my car?
- This issue has been argued back and forth for many years, with consumers ...
- 3.8) Are Usenet postings and email messages copyrighted?
- Almost certainly. They meet the requirement of being original works of ...
- 3.9) Are fonts copyrighted?
- First, let's distinguish between a font and a typeface. A typeface is ...
- 3.10) What does "All Rights Reserved" mean?
- One of the earliest international copyright treaties to which the U.S. ...
- 3.11) What's the difference between a copyright and a patent?
- This answer is included in both the Copyright and Patents FAQs....
- 3.12) Why is there so little in this FAQ about patents?
- Peter Treloar, the moderator of comp.patents, currently maintains a FAQ ...
- 4.1) What international treaties exist governing copyright, or "What is this Berne Convention I keep hearing about?"
- The two major treaties governing copyright are the Berne Convention (U.S. ...
- 4.2) Is Freedonia a signatory to either the Berne Convention or to the Universal Copyright Convention?
- The answer in section 4.1 is generally almost always followed by a query ...
- 5.1) Where can I get more information on copyright?
- The U.S. Copyright Office General Information Package 118 provides ...
- 5.2) What materials related to copyright are available on the Internet?
- The following is a list of materials relating to copyright that I have ...
- 6.1) Appendix: A note about legal citation form, or, "What's all this '17 U.S.C. 107' and.'977 F.2d 1510' stuff?"
- Citations to legal materials can be intimidating when first encountered. ...
- 6.1) Legal citation: Cases
- Cases are reported in books called reporters. A reporter ...
- 6.1) Legal citation: Statutes
- A federal statute is generally enacted as a public law, and ...
- 6.1) Legal citation: Regulations
- In addition to statutes passed by Congress, law also comes ...
- 6.1) Legal citation: Treaties
- Treaties are compiled in several treaty sources. If the U.S. ...