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The term copies is often used to refer generically to any material object in which a copyrighted work has been fixed. However, the Copyright Act reserves the term "copies" only for works other than sound recordings.


Under Section 101 of the 1976 Copyright Act, the term "copies" is defined as "material objects, other than phonorecords, in which a work is fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. The term "copies" includes the material object, other than a phonorecord, in which the work is first fixed."

Examples of "copies" would include a book, a painting, a piece of sheet music, or a sculpture. A software program on disc or in a file on a computer, or a movie on DVD or videotape, would also be "copies," even though these objects might also include an audio sound track. In the digital context, “copies” include reproductions on the hard drive of a computer (such as those that reside on network servers) or on a physical, removable medium (such as copies on DVDs, CDs, etc.), as well as reproductions in the RAM of a computer when a user views a work.[1]

Somewhat confusingly, the terms "copy" and "phonorecord" can also refer to the original object in which the copyrighted work was fixed, such as a handwritten manuscript, or original studio tapes for a sound recording.


  1. See, e.g., MAI Sys. Corp. v. Peak Computer, 991 F.2d 511 (9th Cir. 1993)(full-text), cert. dism., 510 U.S. 1033 (1994); see also The Register of Copyrights, DMCA Section 104 Report 107-123 (2001).[1]