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Copyright Law - Research

Research Guide Created for Prof. Callister's Copyright Course

Constitutional Authority for Copyright

Article I, Section 8, Clause [8]

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries

Congressional Research Service (think tank of the Library of Congress), Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation A superb service that is frequently updated on the Constitution and the caselaw that interprets it. 

Copyright Code - Free Versions


Highlighting notes tab on LLI's version of 17 USC 101.  Tab leads to legislative history.

Major Acts

Copyright Office Explanation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 

Annotated Versions of the Copyright Code

Westlaw or Lexis Codes - Why use the USCA or USCS?  Why use any subscription services at all?

Annotated codes include references to cases or other materials (called "notes of decisions") that have cited your particular code section. They also often include legislative history.  Annotated codes usually also contain constitutions.

In addition services like Fastcase and Bloomberg provide powerful tools for accessing cases that cite code sections and provide legislative history.  In the instance of Fastcase, it can be used to quickly visualize the development of case law around a code section.

Westlaw | Lexis | Fastcase | Bloomberg

Westlaw (link)

Westlaw table of contents to Notes of Decisions for 17 USC 107


Sample Notes of Decision (de minimis rule) for Fair Use 17 USC 107

Lexis Advance (link)

Lexis version of 17 USC 107 includes legislative history with links to Public Laws and inclusion of House Report.


Lexis annotate cases for "education and scholarly" uses under 17 USC 107.


This video shows not only how to browse the copyright sections of the U.S. Code, but how to conduct sophisticated case law analysis of a specific code section, 17 U.S.C. § 107. Besides legislative history and a suggested relevancy-ranked search of the code section, the viewers are taught how to conduct their own search and usual the visual analysis tools of Fastcase to understand the development of section 107 (dealing with "fair use"). Viewers learn to sort through and identify the most important cases for interpreting the section through visual analysis.


Bloomberg (link)

Bloomberg uses SmartCode to help research related content such as case law.

Bloomberg Statutes with link to caselaw


Legislative History

Several of the above images illustrate that copyright statutes are often linked to their legislative history.  However, some Copyright Acts are so important that special legislative histories and guides have been published to help researchers.  Such is the case with the 1976 Copyright Act, a watershed in copyright law.  The law school subscribes to an enormous federal legislative services through ProQuest Congressional.

ProQuest Congressional Legislative History Searching


One of the great resources for the 1976 Act is The Kaminstein Legislative History Project, which we have in the library at KF2989.56.A16 K35.

Screen shot of library catalog with the record for "The Kaminstein Legislative History Project" in view

Besides searching the MERLIN online catalog, the full text of many legislative history compilations is available in HeinOnline.  The KaminStein Legislative History Project is also available on Hein in PDF format. 

Screen shot of Heinonline Legislative History Library with the first copy of the Kaminstein Legislative History Project

By searching for "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" in HeinOnline's U.S. Federal Legislative History Library, you can pull up the original public law, PL 105-304, and read the act as originally enacted.

Screen shot of Public Law obtained by searching "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" on HeinOnline

Alternatively, the original bills for the DMCA can be obtained on for free by searching in "Browse" and selecting the 105th Congress.  Here I searched for "Digital Millennium" and came up with the House and Senate bills.

Screenshot of in browse mode with 105th Congress selected, and searching for "Digital Millennium"