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Copyright Law FAQ Part 1
Posted-By: auto-faq 2.4
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT COPYRIGHT (V. 1.1.0)
Part 1 - Introduction.
Copyright 1993 Terry Carroll
(c) 1993 Terry Carroll
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, and
misc.int-property newsgroups monthly, on or near the 17th of each
month. The FAQ maintainer is currently investigating the
requirements for posting the FAQ in the news.answers and related
The most current copy of the FAQ is always available for anonymous
ftp from charon.amdahl.com [126.96.36.199], in the directory
/pub/misc.legal/Copyright-FAQ, filenames part.1 - part.6.
If you do not have direct access to FTP, you can use the FTP mail
service offered by the DEC Western Research Laboratory to obtain a
copy by mail [note: I have been unable to get this to work - once
the FAQ is set up for *.answers, it will be available for email
transfer by way of the rtfm.mit.edu mail-server]. To do this,
send an email message to email@example.com with the following
commands in the body of your message:
For further information on the FTPmail service, send an email
message to firstname.lastname@example.org with a single command "help" in
the body of your message.
DISCLAIMER - PLEASE READ.
This article is Copyright 1993 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 Legal Forum and Desktop
Publishing Forum data libraries of Compuserve Information
Services. This article is provided as is without any express or
implied warranty. Nothing in this article represents the views of
Amdahl Corporation, Santa Clara University, or 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 jurisdiction.
Terry Carroll, the FAQ-maintainer, is a computer professional, and
is currently (7/93) a student in his final year at Santa Clara
University School of Law and Editor-in-Chief of the Santa Clara
Computer and High Technology Law Journal.
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 preference:
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. Por each part, the last version in which that part was
updated (excluding the reorganization into six parts done as part
of V1.1.0) is indicated in parentheses.
Part 1 (V1.1.0) - Introduction (including full table of
Part 2 (V1.0.0) - 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
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:
Thomas Deardorff <email@example.com>
Stuart P. Derby <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mary Jensen <email@example.com>
David Lassner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
George Mitchell <email@example.com>
Ronald Naylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Carol Odlum <email@example.com>
Laura A. Pitta <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hank Roth <email@example.com>
Craig A. Summerhill <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Peter Stott <email@example.com>
David W. Tamkin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Glenn S. Tenney <email@example.com>
Marina ___ [full name unknown] <firstname.lastname@example.org>
V1.0 (Jul. 12, 1993) - Initial release.
V1.0.1 (Jul. 20, 1993) - Modified Q32 to add information on ftp
V1.1.0 (Aug. 05, 1993) - Reorganized into six parts; minor
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