A Resource For Understanding Federal Copyright As It Applies to the Internet
 
 
 
A Primer: The Basics of Copyright

Rights of the Copyright Holder

Copyright is automatic once an "original work of authorship is fixed in a tangible medium of expression." What this means is that there are no publication or registration requirements, and no need to include copyright notice at the bottom of a Internet photograph or on the homepage of a web site. [1] Furthermore, once a copyrighted work is created, the author or copyright holder of the work gains control over the distribution, reproduction, and public performance of his or her work. It also gives the copyright holder the right to control, to some degree and subject to the limitations of the First Amendment, the creation of derivative works.
 
The right of distribution allows an author to sale or "transfer" his or her work to others.[2] A work is "distributed" when more than one person receives the work or when receipt is not conditioned on "a limited purpose, for example, without prohibition on further reproduction, distribution, or sale." [3] This right of distribution, however, does not exceed the "first sale" of the work. This means that the author may not control subsequent sales or transfers of his or her copyrighted work, for example, at a yard sale.
 
Some commentators have argued that there is no way to apply the "first sale" doctrine to Internet-based communications. They argue that since "no material copy" of a work is transmitted to another person online but only a "reproduction" of this work, the "first sale" doctrine should not apply. [4]
 
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The right of reproduction generally allows an author to control the quality and quantity of "copies" of his or work. "Copies" includes works from which the original may be "perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated." [5] This means that the author may control, subject to certain limitations, substantial copies that clearly communicate the author's original expression. Any "fixed and tangible medium of expression," may also form the basis for copies, and thus, "permanent data storage devices, floppy disks, hard drives, [and even] computer RAM" may be subject to the author's original control. [6]

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The right of display and performance allows as author to control the public presentation of his or her work. Part of the definition of "performance," suggests that this right may be particularly applicable to the Internet environment. A "performance" occurs when expression is transmitted "to an audience that may be geographically or temporally dispersed or both." [7] The Internet, by its nature, creates an audience that is "geographically" and "temporally dispersed." For example, a software producer may require users to display and perform their "program" in a particular manner. A graphic designer may require that a particularly moving graphic be shown at a particular size or in a particular way.

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The right of "derivative works" allows a copyright holder to control, to some degree, the creation of new works substantially based on the author's own copyrighted material. [8] Thus, the author may demand a license and compensation of those attempting to make a "movie version" of his or her latest work of fiction and may be able to obtain a preliminary injunction against any further use of his or her work for this "derivative purpose." In the context of the World Wide Web, a copyright holder's control over the creation of "derivative works" may limit the ability of others to engage in "in-line linking" or framing that changes the presentation and purpose of the author's original work. [9]
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Footnotes

1. See Wayne M. Kennard, "Software Patents and the Internet," in Fourth Annual Internet Law Institution, Practicing Law Institute, Vol. 1, 169,182 § 6.03[1](2000).

2. See Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 106(3) (2001).

3. See Wayne M. Kennard, "Software Patents and the Internet," in Fourth Annual Internet Law Institution, Practicing Law Institute, Vol. 1, 169,183 § 6.03[4](2000).

4. See id. at 217, § 6.03[3][b] (2000).

5. See Copyright Act of 1976, U.S.C. § 101 (2001).

6. See See Wayne M. Kennard, "Software Patents and the Internet," in Fourth Annual Internet Law Institution, Practicing Law Institute, Vol. 1, 169,182 § 6.03[1](2000).

7. See id. at 184, § 6.03[4](2000).

8. See Gregory C. Lisby, Web Site Framing: Copyright Infringement Through the Creation of an Unauthorized Derivative Work. 6 Comm. L. & Pol'y 541, 552 (2001).

9. See id. at 553 (2001).

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