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Copyright Law Research Guide: Intro

Introduction to Copyright Law Research

Copyright law protects works from unauthorized copying.  Current U.S. copyright law is largely governed by the Copyright Act of 1976, which mostly eliminated the common law rights available earlier.  Although federal law is the main focus of this guide and the 1976 Act has a preemption provision, state law is not preemted when it governs additional rights, and in other limited circumstances. 

Copyright law research involves primary legal sources such as statutes, cases, and administrative law--potentially, at both the state and federal levels.  Legislative history research can be necessary to ascertain the legislative intent behind particular statutory language.

In most instances, it is best to begin your research with a review of secondary sources and practice aids such as research guides, background materials, treatises, and law review articles. Secondary sources help you frame your questions before you begin researching "the law" and often provide references to primary sources, rules, or forms. As you continue your research, you may want to consult current awareness tools to keep current on legal developments that may affect your research.

This guide is designed to point out the best sources available for copyright law research at BU.  Some of the resources are free Internet sources, but many are subscription services available to members of the BU Law community.  Where possible, this guide will link to other guides which can provide even more detail or resources on a particular subject. 

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The following videos include sound.  Click the accompanying images to begin learning about each of these research tasks!


Find a Copyright Registration


Find a Copyright Royalty Board Determination


Find the Legislative History for a Copyright Law


Find Copyright Treaties


Track Proposed Copyright Legislation


Find Copyright Law of Foreign Countries

Subject Guide

Jenna Fegreus

Table of Contents

I.  Introduction

II. Secondary Sources

  • Special Collections of IP Resources
  • Copyright Research Sources: Print & Online
  • Finding Law Journal Articles
  • Study Aids for Copyright & IP Law
  • Copyright News: Keeping Up with New Developments
  • Copyright Blogs

III.  Practice Aids

  • Books about Copyright Law Practice
  • Finding Copyright Forms
  • US Copyright Office Guides & Resources
  • Copyright Statistics

IV.   Statutes & Legislative History

  • Federal Copyright Statutes
  • Compiled Federal Legislative Histories at BU
  • Tracking Legislation
  • Finding Other Legislative History Information

V.    Decisions & Regulations

  • Copyright Regulations: C.F.R. & Fed Register
  • Federal Copyright Cases & Agency Decisions
  • Tracking the U.S. Copyright Office

VI.   Copyright Registrations

  • Public Domain & Fair Use
  • Locating Copyright Registrations

VII.  State Law on Copyrights

  • State Copyright Law

VIII. Foreign & International Law

  • International & Foreign Copyright Resources
  • Treaties on Copyrights
  • Keeping Current on International Copyright Issues
  • Books for International and Foreign Research