FAQ -- Copyright Laws and the Internet

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about copyright laws and how it affects Internet users.

1. What is copyright?
The copyright laws ( title 17, U.S. Code ) are a form of protection "to original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated."  This protection is extended to both published and unpublished works of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, pictorial and certain other intellectual creations.  Copyright laws grant the creator/owner the exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform and display the work publicly.

2. What is "fair use" doctrine?
Section 107 of the Copyright Act establishes the "fair use" doctrine which provides for specific exemptions from copyright liability.  An example of this is the use of certain excerpts of a written work for educational purposes.  In most cases though, determining what constitutes as "fair use" is fact specific and an analysis must be made to determine the effects of the value of the copyrighted material.

3. What is the "public domain" doctrine?
Information found in the public domain can be copied if the information is created by the federal government, if the copyright has expired or the copyright has been abandoned by the holder.  It is important to realize that a work may be available to the public over the Internet but still may be protected by copyright.

4. Who can claim copyright?
From the time the work is created in fixed form, the work becomes the property of the author who created it.  Only the author and those who have been granted permission ( usually with conditions ) to use the material by the rightful author can claim rights in a copyrighted work. For this reason, 42-North asks that anyone who detects what appears to be a copyright violation on a 42-North web site, report to those who can claim the rights in the work rather than 42-North.  In this way, the rightful persons can evaluate the use and determine whether to assert a claim against the infringer and alert the 42-North Webmaster to the infringement.

5. How to register for copyright protection?
Registration of material for copyright protection is not necessary but it does provide advantages.  A couple of advantages are:

- a public record of the copyright is established and
- registration allows the owner to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

To request information on copyright registration forms, copyright problems or other related questions please contact:

Copyright Office
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20559 - 6000.

You may speak to a Copyright Information Specialist by calling (202) 707 - 3000 between 8:30 a.m. -  5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays.  The Copyright Office is not permitted to give legal advice, but the Copyright Office can send you forms to use in registering copyright and informational pamphlets regarding filling out the forms and general copyright law issues.

6. What information is available from the Internet? Internet site addresses for copyright information are:

- http://www.copyright.com
- http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright