Scope of Copyright Protection

A copyright is an exclusive right to and authorize others to:

reproduce a work of authorship,

prepare derivative works,

distribute copies of the work by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending,

perform the work publicly, and

display the work.


In some instances, there are specific exemptions from copyright liabilitySections 107 through 121 of the 1976 Copyright Act establish limitations on rights provided by the copyright law.

One major limitation is the doctrine of “fair use,” which is codified in Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

Section 107 contains a list of purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.

Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether a particular use is fair:

the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes,

the nature of the copyrighted work,

the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and

the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

Another limitation takes the form of a “compulsory license” under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions.

If you have a question about the scope of copyright protection, askme at