Overview of Copyright Law

Forthcoming, Oxford Handbook of Intellectual Property, Rochelle Dreyfuss & Justine Pila, Eds.

Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-518

30 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2016 Last revised: 22 Aug 2016

Date Written: July 1, 2016


This article offers an overview of copyright in general in common law and civil law countries, with an emphasis on the U.S. and the European Union. It addresses the history and philosophies of copyright (authors’ right), subject matter of copyright (including the requirement of fixation and the exclusion of “ideas”), formalities, initial ownership and transfers of title, duration, exclusive moral and economic rights (including reproduction, adaptation, public performance and communication and making available to the public, distribution and exhaustion of the distribution right), exceptions and limitations (including fair use), and remedies. The article also covers the liability of intermediaries, and new copyright obligations concerning technological protections and copyright management information. It concludes with some observations concerning the role of copyright in promoting creativity and free expression.

Keywords: intellectual property, copyright, authors' right, Berne Convention, WCT, originality, fixation, moral rights, reproduction right, adaptation right, performance/communication rights, making available right,distribution right, three-step test, fair use, ISD, intermediary liability

Suggested Citation

Ginsburg, Jane C., Overview of Copyright Law (July 1, 2016). Forthcoming, Oxford Handbook of Intellectual Property, Rochelle Dreyfuss & Justine Pila, Eds., Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-518, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2811179

Jane C. Ginsburg (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
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New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-3325 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

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