The IT Law Wiki

U.S. copyright law[]


The Copyright Act grants copyright owners certain exclusive rights that, together, comprise the bundle of rights known as copyright. Under Section 106 of Title 17, the exclusive rights of the copyright owner include the right to do and to authorize any of the following: —

(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;

(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;

(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes and pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and

(6) in the case of sound recording]s, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.[1]


These rights are subject to certain limitations that are defined in Sections 107 through 122 of the Copyright Act.

These rights, in most instances, have been well elaborated by Congress and the courts in both "conventional" and digital contexts.

The 1976 Act for the first time includes a right of copyright owners both "to do and to authorize" the various exclusive rights of copyright ownership. The legislative history of this provision explains that "use of the phrase 'to authorize' is intended to avoid any questions as to the liability of contributory infringers.”[2]

U.S. patent law[]

Under U.S. patent law, a patent grants the owner

the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States, and, if the invention is a process, of the right to exclude others from using, offering for sale or selling throughout the United States, or importing into the United States, products made by that process, referring to the specification for the particulars thereof[3]

for a period of 20 years from the date of the patent application.[4] One who engages in any of those acts without the permission of the patentee during the term of the patent can be held liable for infringement.

This right is often characterized as a “monopoly.”[5] But it is a limited monopoly, since the patent owner has no right to make, sell, use or import his own invention if in doing so he would infringe another patent.[6]


  1. 17 U.S.C. §106.
  2. House Report, at 61.
  3. 35 U.S.C. §154(a)(1).
  4. Id. at §154(a)(2).
  5. Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 229, 140 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 524, 527 (1964)(full-text).
  6. Id.