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Copyright Law Explained

Copyright Limitations and Exceptions

The exclusive rights granted to copyright owners are not without certain restrictions. There are several exceptions to the copyright owner’s exclusive rights scattered throughout the Copyright Act. The most significant and, perhaps, murky of the limitations on a copyright owner’s exclusive rights is the fair use exception. There are numerous other exceptions and limitations to the copyright owner’s exclusive rights in the Copyright Act, including exceptions to:

  • allow libraries and archives to make copies for preservation purposes;
  • allow the owner of a copy of a computer program to make a back-up copy of the program;
  • allow certain performances and displays for the purposes of classroom education, religious services, and transmissions to the handicapped and to the blind;
  • allow certain authorized entities to reproduce and distribute copies of certain works in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities;
  • allow purchasers of legal copies to re-distribute or otherwise dispose of those copies (commonly referred to as the first sale exception); and
  • other exceptions and limitations.

There are also several compulsory licenses in the law, including compulsory licenses that allow:

  • reproduction and distribution of nondramatic musical works in the course of making and distributing sound recordings;
  • cable systems and satellite operators to retransmit copyrighted programming without infringement liability if they pay a statutory licensing fee;
  • public performance of nondramatic musical works by means of jukeboxes; and
  • use of certain works in connection with noncommercial broadcasting;

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