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Intellectual Property Research Guide: Copyright



United States copyright law protects intellectual works, such as poetry, literature, art, photography, movies, videos, video games, and graphics. We recommend that you begin your research with secondary sources, such as treatises, legal encyclopedias, and law journal articles.

In-depth Secondary Sources
Primary Sources


Statutory law: Title 17 of the United States Code contains the Copyright Act of 1976 and all subsequent amendments to copyright law, the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984, as amended, and the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act, as amended. The code is available online at the U.S. Copyright Office website, and at many other locations, including on Lexis and Westlaw.

Proposed Legislation:

  • is the Library of Congress free legislative research service, and the website allows searches of all legislation from 1973 to the current legislative session.
  • maintains records of federal legislation and legislators going back to 1972. The platform supports searches, tracking, and alerts.
  • Lexis and Westlaw also provide bill searching and tracking features. On Westlaw, the database is Federal Proposed and Enacted Legislation, and on Lexis, it is Bill Text.

Regulations: Copyright regulations are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 37, Parts 201-384. Access these on the U.S. Copyright Office Website (parts 201-212 only) or through the e-CFR, or obtain annotated versions on Lexis or Westlaw. The Copyright Office Practices Manuals are available on the U.S. Copyright Office website.

Case Law

  • The best way to find relevant case law is to start with a secondary source. Alternatively, if you have a citation to a statute, use the annotations or Shepardize (Lexis) or KeyCite (Westlaw) to find relevant cases on the issue.
  • If you do not have a statute or known case, searching in specific headnotes (Lexis) and Key Numbers (Westlaw) can be highly efficient.
  • Keyword searching is often least efficient because it depends on matching the terms used in the decisions you are looking for. We recommend contacting a UC Hastings librarian or the Westlaw and Lexis reference attorneys for assistance in building your searches.
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