Search the FAQ Archives

3 - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M
N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - Internet FAQ Archives

Copyright Law FAQ (1/6): Introduction

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - Part5 - Part6 )
[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Sex offenders ]
Posted-By: auto-faq 2.4
Archive-name: law/Copyright-FAQ/part1

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
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,,, 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 [], 
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 with the following 
lines in it:

  send usenet/news.answers/law/Copyright-FAQ/part1
  send usenet/news.answers/law/Copyright-FAQ/part2
  send usenet/news.answers/law/Copyright-FAQ/part3
  send usenet/news.answers/law/Copyright-FAQ/part4
  send usenet/news.answers/law/Copyright-FAQ/part5
  send usenet/news.answers/law/Copyright-FAQ/part6


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
     Copyright Office?
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
     my work?
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.
2.10) [reserved.]

Part 3 - Common miscellaneous questions.

3.1) Who owns the copyright to something I wrote at work, me or my 
3.2) [reserved.]
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 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, but in many newsgroups, from comp.fonts 
to  It also happens to be my favorite area of law, 
so when I abandoned the 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 origin.  On, 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 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 <>
  Thomas Deardorff <>
  Stuart P. Derby <>
  Mary Jensen <>
  David Lassner <>
  George Mitchell <>
  Ronald Naylor <>
  Carol Odlum <>
  Laura A. Pitta <>
  Hank Roth <>
  Craig A. Summerhill <>
  Peter Stott <>
  David W. Tamkin <>
  Glenn S. Tenney <>
  Marina ___ [full name unknown] <>


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
                         editorial changes.
V1.1.1 (Sep. 21, 1993) - Added FTP information for;
                         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.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - Part5 - Part6

[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index ]

Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer: (Terry Carroll)

Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM