Copyright:
Limitations


By Andrew Hudson Published: May 25, 2012 Updated: July 14, 2015

The U.S. Copyright Act contains over 20 sections on limitations and exceptions to copyright protection. The most significant are:

Most Significant Limitations
Limitation/ExceptionSection
Fair use§107
Originality§102
Derivative work§103
U.S. Government work§105
Libraries and archives§108
Display and resale of items§109
Architectural works§120
Duration§302
Statute of Limitations§507
Minor copying (de minimis)Common Law
Scènes à Faire/a>Common Law

The 25 Limitations & Exceptions of U.S. Copyright Law

Common Law

De MinimisToo minor to warrant court action
Scènes à Faire/a>Element that are so common or customary to a genre that they are not captured by copyright.

Limitations to Copyright

“… the following are not infringements of copyright …”
SectionTitlePermits, without authorization
107Fair usePublic interest and non-profit use
108Reproduction by libraries and archivesNon-commercial, public access
109Effect of transfer of particular copy or phonorecord“… the owner of a particular copy … to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy … [and] to display that copy publicly …”
110Exemption of certain performances and displays“… display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution …”
111Secondary transmissions of broadcast programming by cableSecondary broadcasts of TV shows and movies by cable TV systems
112Ephemeral recordingsRadio and TV stations to make copies in connection with transmission
115Compulsory licenseNot for photography, for music.
117Computer programs
119Secondary transmissions of distant television programming by satellite
121Reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities
122Secondary transmissions of local television programming by satellite
302Duration of copyrightAfter life of the author plus 70 years
507Statute of limitationsThree years after the claim accrued

Exceptions to Copyright

“Copyright protection … is not available for …”
SectionTitlePermits, without authorization
102In generalWork that is not original or tangible; facts, ideas or concepts
103Compilations and derivative worksPreexisting copyrighted material
104National originPublished work must have some connection to the U.S.
105United States Government works“Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government …”
113Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural worksUseful articles
114Sound recordings
115Nondramatic musical works: Compulsory license for making and distributing phonorecords
118Use of certain works in connection with noncommercial broadcasting
120Architectural works“Pictorial Representations Permitted”

Common Law Limitations

De minimisVery minor copying

§102: Originality

“Copyright protection subsists … [only] in original works of authorship …”
17 USC §102(a)

“In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery …”
17 USC §102(b)

originality.

§103: Derivative Work

derivative work.

§104: National Origin

national origin.

§105: U.S. Government Work

“Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government …”
17 USC §105

§107: Fair Use

fair use.

§108: Libraries and Archives

“.. it is not an infringement of copyright for a library or archives .. to reproduce no more than one copy .. of a work .. or to distribute such copy .. if

  • (1) the reproduction or distribution is made without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage;
  • (2) the collections of the library or archives are (i) open to the public .. and
  • (3) the reproduction or distribution of the work includes a notice of copyright that appears on the copy or phonorecord that is reproduced under the provisions of this section, or includes a legend stating that the work may be protected by copyright if no such notice can be found on the copy or phonorecord that is reproduced under the provisions of this section.”

17 USC §108

§109: Display & Resale

Display

“.. the owner of a particular copy .. is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to display that copy publicly, either directly or by the projection of no more than one image at a time, to viewers present at the place where the copy is located.”
17 USC §109(c)

“The privileges prescribed by subsections (a) and (c) do not, unless authorized by the copyright owner, extend to any person who has acquired possession of the copy or phonorecord from the copyright owner, by rental, lease, loan, or otherwise, without acquiring ownership of it.”
17 USC §109(d)

“In the case of a work lawfully reproduced in useful articles that have been offered for sale or other distribution to the public, copyright does not include any right to prevent the making, distribution, or display of pictures or photographs of such articles in connection with advertisements or commentaries related to the distribution or display of such articles, or in connection with news reports.”
17 USC §113(c)

“Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including the copy or phonorecord in which the work is first fixed, does not of itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object..”
17 USC §202

Resale

“.. the owner of a particular copy .. is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy..”
17 USC §109(a)

“As to vending, it is well settled that when publication has been authorized, the right to vend pertains only to the initial sale of a copy; the purchaser of the copy is then free to resell or otherwise dispose of it. On the other hand, when publication is not authorized, any vending of a copy is an infringement of the right to publish.”
1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law.

§110: Display for Nonprofit Teaching

“… the following are not infringements of copyright: … display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction …”
17 USC §110

§120: Architecture

“Pictorial Representations Permitted. — The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.”
17 USC §120(a)

architecture

§302: Duration

“Copyright in a work created on or after January 1, 1978, subsists from its creation and, except as provided by the following subsections, endures for a term consisting of the life of the author and 70 years after the author’s death.”
17 USC §302(a)

Common Law: De Minimis

de minimis.

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