Sun reflecting on RPC building.

Copyright rules in the United States

Published on 23 January 2018

Get to grips with the framework of copyright law in the United States with the 2018 TerraLex Cross-Border Copyright Guide.

What are the main sources of copyright law in the United States?

Copyright law in the United States is governed by federal statute, the US Copyright Act of 1976 (as amended), 17 U.S.C. § 101, et seq. (the Copyright Act). Over the years, there have been several revisions to the Copyright Act and these prior versions continue to apply to works created (or published/registered in some instances) at the time when those prior versions were in effect.

It is imperative to determine what version of the US Copyright Act applies to a particular work to determine what rights are afforded to that work, particularly with respect to the duration of copyrights and steps that need to be taken to avoid the work from falling into the public domain prior to expiration of the copyright term.  In addition, pre-1972 sound recordings in certain instances are governed by common law existing prior to the first Copyright Act.

To find out more about subsistence of copyright, ownership, infringement, remedies, enforcement and copyright reform in the United States, download the full chapter below.