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Subject: Copyright Law FAQ (6/6): Appendix (a note about legal citation form)
This article was archived around: 9 Apr 96 18:51:46 GMT
Posted-By: auto-faq 2.4
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT COPYRIGHT (V. 1.1.2)
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?"
Copyright 1994 Terry Carroll
(c) 1994 Terry Carroll
Last update: January 6, 1994.
This article is the last 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 [220.127.116.11],
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 email@example.com 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
Part 1 - Introduction (including full table of contents).
Part 2 - Copyright basics.
Part 3 - Common miscellaneous questions.
Part 4 - International aspects.
Part 5 - Further copyright resources.
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?"
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.
The purpose of this entry is to provide a short description of the legal
citations used in this article to reduce that intimidation. It's not
intended as a be-all and end-all to legal research, but just a way of
letting you find the sources that are cited in this FAQ if you head to a
law library. If you don't care about looking up any of the legal
materials cited in this FAQ, you can skip this entry. On the other hand,
if you find this interesting and would like more information, I recommend
Mark Eckenwiler's Legal Research FAQ. This FAQ is archived at
rtfm.mit.edu, directory /pub/usenet/news/answers/law/research, files
part1 and part2. 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:
Questions regarding the Legal Research FAQ should be directed to Mark at
CASES: Cases are reported in books called "reporters." A reporter
generally consists of a series of bound volumes. Often when the volume
number becomes too high, the reporter publisher starts over with volume
1, designating the new set as a "second series," "third series," etc., as
Because copyright is almost entirely a matter of federal law, most (if
not all) cases referenced in this FAQ are federal cases. The most common
reporters (with their abbreviations shown in parentheses) are:
United States Reports (U.S.) - This is the official reporter for cases
from the United States Supreme Court. This is the standard reporter
reference provided when referencing a Supreme Court case. If a case is
especially recent, it may not yet be published in the U.S. Reports, in
which case, the proper reference is to one of the unofficial reporters
(either the Supreme Court Reporter or the Lawyers' Edition).
The unofficial reporters are also cross-indexed by the U.S. Report's
volume and page numbers, so that given a citation to a case in the U.S.
Reports, you should be able to also find it in either of the unofficial
reporters. The converse is not true: if, for example, you have a
citation to the Supreme Court Reporter, you will not be able to find the
case in the U.S. Reports. All law libraries carry a set of books called
Shepard's Citations, which will permit you to cross-reference this way.
See your law librarian for help using these intimidating-looking books.
Supreme Court Reporter (S.Ct.) - This is an unofficial reporter published
by West Publishing. It too reports cases from the United States Supreme
Court. The advantages of this reporter is that it comes out more quickly
than the official reporter, and also includes West's headnotes and case
United States Supreme Court Reporter, Lawyers' Edition (L.Ed.) - This is
another unofficial reporter, similar to the Supreme Court Reporter, but
published by the Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Co. In addition to the
advantages offered by the Supreme Court Reporter, it often includes short
essays (called annotations) on points of law dealt with in a case.
Federal Reporter (F.) - This is an unofficial reporter, published by
West, that reports cases from the various United States Courts of Appeal.
There is no official reporter for these cases, and the Federal Reporter
de facto fills that role.
Federal Supplement (F.Supp) - This is an unofficial reporter, published
by West, that reports cases from the various United States District
Courts (that is, from the courts of "original jurisdiction," where trials
are originally held and often appealed to the higher courts). There is
no official reporter for these cases, and the Federal Supplement de facto
fills that role.
United States Patent Quarterly (U.S.P.Q.) - This is a topical reporting
service from the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA). It reports cases from
various courts, but because it's a "topical reporter," it only reports
cases dealing with a certain topic, in this case, intellectual property
(despite its name, it's not limited to patent cases).
This is only a very small subset of the reporters and services that
report cases. For a more complete list, see "The Bluebook: A Uniform
System of Citation, 15th Edition," in particular, tables T.1 (United
States Jurisdictions), T.2 (Foreign Jurisdictions) and T.16 (Services).
The standard way of referencing a case is in the format:
case-name volume-number reporter [series, if applicable] page-number
"Jurisdiction" is omitted for U.S. Supreme Court cases; the fact that the
reporter is U.S., S.Ct., or L.Ed. is enough to show that it's a U.S.
Supreme Court case. If two page numbers are included, the first page
number is the page on which the case begins, and the second is the page
that contains the particular point being referenced (called a "pinpoint
cite" or "jump cite").
Here is an example of a case citation:
Sega v. Accolade, 977 F.2d 1510, 1520 (9th Cir., 1993).
>From this citation, we know that the parties in the case are Sega and
Accolade; the case is reported in volume 977 (second series) of the
Federal Reporter; the case begins on page 1510, but the particular point
being referenced is on page 1520; the case was decided in the 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals, in 1993.
STATUTES: A federal statute is generally enacted as a "public law," and
is assigned a P.L. number. This number indicates the Congress in which
it was enacted, and the law number within the Congress. For example, the
Copyright Act of 1976 was the 553rd law enacted by the 94th Congress, and
so is officially catalogued as P.L. 94-553. If you know the P.L. number
of a law, you can generally find it in the United States Code
Congressional and Administrative News (U.S.C.C.A.N.), or in Statutes at
Large (see below) easily.
Once enacted, Public Laws are catalogued in a official statute list
called "Statutes At Large." Citations to Statutes at Large ("Stat.") are
similar to that for cases: volume, service identifier, and page number.
For example, the Copyright Act of 1976 may be cited as 90 Stat 2541,
meaning that it is in Statutes At Large, volume 90, page 2541.
However, most statutes, as enacted, are not very useful to read. They're
generally written in a style saying that a prior act is amended by adding
certain words or phrases, and deleting others. Without seeing the
context of the modified portion, you really can't see what the statute
This problem is handled by statutory codifications. In particular, most
U.S. laws are organized into "titles" of the U.S. Code (U.S.C.). Each
title governs a particular area of law. For example, Title 17 deals with
copyright law. These codifications are periodically updated by taking
the original laws and applying the modifications made by subsequent laws
so that the result is the text of the law as it is in effect today. In
practice, almost every citation to law (including the majority of those
in this FAQ) are to the U.S.C., not to the individual public laws.
A typical citation to the U.S.C. looks like this: 17 U.S.C. 107. This is
a reference to U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107 (which happens to be the
fair use provisions of copyright).
While there is an official U.S. Code published by the U.S. government,
there are two commercially published versions of the code, too. These
are West Publishing's U.S. Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) and Lawyers
Cooperative Publishing Co.'s U.S. Code Service (U.S.C.S.). In practice,
because of the private versions are frequently updated, and contain
extras such as cross-references to other statutes, cases, law review
articles and other resources, they are used far more frequently than the
REGULATIONS: In addition to statutes passed by Congress, law also comes
in the form of regulations promulgated by the various federal agencies.
In the case of copyright, the regulations we're most interested in are
those promulgated by the Copyright Office.
Regulations become effective by publication of the regulation in the
Federal Register (Fed. Reg.). Like statutes, they are then periodically
codified, in this case in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.).
Usually, regulations are cited to the C.F.R. for the same reason that
statutes are usually cited to the U.S.C. However, the promulgation
documents as published in the Federal Register include not only the
regulation itself, but usually information justifying or explaining the
regulation, so occasionally the Fed. Reg. citation is used.
Here are some examples of citations to a regulation, in this case, to a
regulation preventing registration of a copyright in a blank form:
45 Fed. Reg. 63297, 63299 (Sep. 24, 1980). (Federal Register volume 45,
beginning on page 63297, with a pinpoint cite to page 63299.)
37 C.F.R. 202.1(c) (1992). (the same regulation, as codified in the
TREATIES: Treaties are compiled in several treaty sources. If the U.S.
is a party, the treaty will generally be found in United States Treaties
and Other International Agreements (U.S.T.) or Treaties and Other
International Acts Series (T.I.A.S.). In some cases (especially with
older treaties signed before the State Department took on their
publication), they'll be in Statutes at Large; in some case (especially
with important newer treaties not yet published by the State Department),
they'll be in the private versions of the U.S. Code.
If the U.S. is not a party, the treaty won't be in the above sources. It
might be found the United Nations Treaty Series (U.N.T.S.) (or the League
of Nations Treaty Series (L.N.T.S.) for older treaties), the Pan-American
Treaty Series (Pan-Am. T.S.) or European Treaty Series (Europ. T.S.).
In addition, treaties may be found in many unofficial compilations, e.g.,
International Legal Materials (I.L.M.), Basic Documents of International
Economic Law (B.D.I.E.L.), Bevans, and Kavass (KAV).
This is only a small list of treaty sources. For more sources, see "The
Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 15th Edition," in particular,
table T.4 (Treaty Sources).
Generally, treaties are cited in the standard way: volume number,
reporter, and page number (e.g., the Berne Convention is 1 B.D.I.E.L.
715). A few series (e.g., T.I.A.S. and Europ. T.S.) are cited by treaty
number within the series, with no volume number specified.
The document "Treaties In Force" lists all the treaties to which the U.S.
is a party, and it lists all the other nations that are also a party.
This is a good source to find out if a particular nation is a signatory
to a particular treaty.
One final note on treaties: In section 4.1, many citations to treaties
look like typographical errors: "Art. 6bis" and "Art. 11ter," for
example. Well, these aren't typos. "bis," "ter, and "quater" are
suffixes derived from the French words for "second," "third," and
"fourth," respectively These suffixes are used when a treaty has already
been written, and a revision will insert a new article between already
existing articles. This avoids the need to renumber the treaty articles,
and so provides a consistency between multiple revisions of the treaties.
For example, Article 6bis of the Berne Convention is an article that was
inserted between Article 6 and Article 7 when the convention text was
revised. (This is also the reason why some modems are advertised as
supporting the V.32 protocol, while others support V.32bis, in case
you've ever wondered.)