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Subject: Copyright Law FAQ (1/6): Introduction
This article was archived around: 9 Apr 96 18:49:51 GMT
Posted-By: auto-faq 2.4
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT COPYRIGHT (V. 1.1.3)
Part 1 - Introduction.
Copyright 1994 Terry Carroll
(c) 1994 Terry Carroll
Last update: January 6, 1994.
This article is the first in a series of six articles that contains
frequently asked questions (FAQ) with answers relating to copyright law,
particularly that of the United States. It is posted to the Usenet
misc.legal, misc.legal.computing, misc.int-property, comp.patents,
misc.answers, comp.answers, and news.answers newsgroups monthly, on or
near the 17th of each month.
This FAQ is available for anonymous FTP from rtfm.mit.edu [126.96.36.199],
in directory /pub/usenet/news.answers/law/Copyright-FAQ, files part1 -
part6. If you do not have direct access by FTP, you can obtain a copy
via email: send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following
lines in it:
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 & 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. :-)
The following table indicates the contents of each of the parts of the
FAQ. For each part, the last version in which that part was
substantially updated (excluding the reorganization into six parts done
as part of V1.1.0) is indicated in parentheses.
Part 1 (V1.1.1) - Introduction (including full table of
Part 2 (V1.1.2) - Copyright basics.
Part 3 (V1.0.0) - Common miscellaneous questions.
Part 4 (V1.0.0) - International aspects.
Part 5 (V1.0.2) - Further copyright resources.
Part 6 (V1.0.0) - Appendix: A note about legal citation form,
or, "What's all this '17 U.S.C. 107' and '977
F.2d 1510' stuff?"
TABLE OF CONTENTS (for all parts).
Part 1 - Introduction.
Part 2 - Copyright Basics.
2.1) What is a copyright?
2.2) What is "public domain?"
2.3) I just wrote a great program/novel/song/whatever. How can I
get a copyright on it?
2.4) How long does a copyright last? Does it need to be renewed?
2.5) What advantages are there to registering my work with the
2.6) How can I register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright
2.7) What advantages are there to including a copyright notice on
2.8) Can I ever use a copyrighted work without permission of the
copyright holder, or "What is 'fair use?'"
2.9) Fair use - the legal basis of the doctrine.
Part 3 - Common miscellaneous questions.
3.1) Who owns the copyright to something I wrote at work, me or my
3.3) Is copyright infringement a crime, or a civil matter?
3.4) What is the statute of limitation for copyright infringement?
3.5) Can the government be sued for copyright infringement?
3.6) Can the government copyright its works?
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?
3.8) Are Usenet postings and email messages copyrighted?
3.9) Are fonts copyrighted?
3.10) What does "All Rights Reserved" mean?
3.11) What's the difference between a copyright and a patent?
3.12) Why is there so little in this FAQ about patents?
3.13 - 3.18) [reserved.]
Part 4 - International aspects.
4.1) What international treaties exist governing copyright, or
"What is this Berne Convention I keep hearing about?"
4.2) Is Freedonia a signatory to either the Berne Convention or to
the Universal Copyright Convention?
Part 5 - Further copyright resources.
5.1) Where can I get more information on copyright?
5.2) What materials related to copyright are available on the
Part 6 - Appendix: A note about legal citation form, or, "What's
all this '17 U.S.C. 107' and '977 F.2d 1510' stuff?"
This FAQ originally began as a general-purpose FAQ for the Usenet
misc.legal newsgroup. After working on that broad FAQ for several
months, it became apparent that such a FAQ was too monumental a task to
be undertaken by a single FAQ maintainer. The person who succeeded me in
the effort agreed.
I've noticed that copyright questions seem to come up constantly on
Usenet, not only in misc.legal, but in many newsgroups, from comp.fonts
to rec.classical.music. It also happens to be my favorite area of law,
so when I abandoned the misc.legal FAQ, I decided to retain the portions
dealing with copyright law, and to fashion that into a Copyright Law FAQ.
This document is the result.
This FAQ betrays its misc.legal origin. On misc.legal, it's very common,
and indeed preferred, for assertions of law to be accompanied by
citations to the relevant legal authorities. This serves as a check
against erroneous or misleading interpretations of the authorities. It
also allows the reader to verify the authorities, and provides an
enthusiastic reader with starting points for further research into the
subject. In trimming the former misc.legal FAQ to discuss only copyright
law, I've decided to retain these citations. This is not only for the
reasons stated above, but also because this FAQ, like any other static
document, is in danger of being made out of date by future developments
in the law. By providing sources for the answers to the questions, an
inquisitive reader will be able to investigate the source and determine,
for example, if a particular appellate case has been overruled or has
been declined to be followed by other appellate courts. I have included
an appendix at the end of the FAQ to assist newcomers in understanding
the legal notation used in citing references.
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>
V1.0 (Jul. 12, 1993) - Initial release.
V1.0.1 (Jul. 20, 1993) - Updates to reflect changes in FTP sites.
V1.1.0 (Aug. 05, 1993) - Reorganized into six parts; minor
V1.1.1 (Sep. 21, 1993) - Added FTP information for rtfm.mit.edu;
major overhaul to section 2.4 (on
copyright duration); minor editorial
V1.1.2 (Nov. 23, 1993) - Miscellaneous minor changes.
V1.1.3 (Jan. 06, 1994) - Update to section 2.4 (on copyright duration) to
reflect 1993 expirations; update to part 6 to
include pointer to the Legal Research FAQ;
updates to reflect changes in FTP sites; and, of
course, the usual miscellaneous minor changes.