Dr. Ronald B. Standler
Lawyer in Massachusetts

Copyright Law

c.v.     Biography     Fees     Technology Law     Education Law     Copyright Law     Contact

Since 1998, I am licensed to practice law in Massachusetts.   I am admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Massachusetts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

I concentrate in copyright law, particularly as applied to:
I can easily travel to towns in northeastern Massachusetts, or to the Boston area, including Cambridge, MA.

About Dr. Standler

By way of introduction, I: My experience means that I personally understand the importance of protecting intellectual property rights of authors and programmers by using copyright law.   I shall personally do all work on my client's case or problem, so that my client gets the full benefit of my education and experience.

My homepage at www.rbs2.com/ contains links to documents with my credentials, my current fees, how to contact me, and links to my essays on other topics in law.

My Essays About Copyright Law

Essays on this website are provided only to provide general information and to communicate my personal comments on interesting topics in law, technology, and society. Essays on this website are neither legal advice nor legal opinion. Accessing this website or reading documents on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. See my disclaimer for details.

All essays at this website are protected by copyright. I have posted my Terms Of Service for printing, copying, and distributing my essays at this website.

I am an attorney only in Massachusetts, so I can not provide legal advice to people in other states of the USA, unless they have been injured or sued in Massachusetts, or unless your local attorney hires me as a consultant. However, I have posted the following hints for how to find an attorney.

Copyrights are part of intellectual property law, and are intended to not only give authors control over their work, but also provide an economic reward to authors through licensing fees or royalties. The use of photocopy machines since the mid-1960s and the development of the Internet since the mid-1990s has led to a culture of widespread copyright infringement.

My summary of copyright law in the USA considers copyright infringement on the Internet, as well as fair use, photocopy machines, and plagiarism.

My essay on moral rights of authors discusses legal rights granted to authors in France, Germany, Italy, and other countries, but which are absent from law in the USA. I argue that the term "moral rights" is a misnomer and that copyright law in the USA should be expanded to include at least the moral right of attribution.

My long essay on plagiarism in colleges in the USA discusses legal aspects and academic policy.   Because I work in both higher-education law and copyright law, I look at plagiarism in colleges and universities from two perspectives.   In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court in Dastar ended the use of trademark law (i.e., false designation of origin) to punish plagiarists. My essay on plagiarism discusses Dastar and the problems caused by Dastar.

Williams & Wilkins v. U.S., 172 U.S.P.Q. 670 (Ct.Cl. 1972), rev'd, 487 F.2d 1345 (Ct.Cl. 1973) is the first case in the USA involving photocopying of copyrighted journals by a library.   I have posted the entire trial court's opinion and the entire appellate opinion, together with my annotations and critical analysis of this case.

Law (e.g., statutes, judicial opinions, government regulations) in the USA is not copyrightable subject matter, although — bizarrely — at least 17 states in the USA attempt to copyright either their statutes or judicial opinions, and for-profit companies publish most of the law used in the USA.   My essay traces the history of copyright for law in the USA, and explains the recent rise of public-domain citation formats for judicial opinions.

If a work is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before infringement occurs, and if the copyright owner wins copyright infringement litigation, then the judge may order the infringer to reimburse the copyright owner's reasonable attorney's fees. 17 U.S.C. §§ 412, 505.   In May 2010, I began writing a 121-page technical essay on the criteria used by a judge to decide whether to award attorney's fees to a prevailing party in a copyright infringement case.   My essay emphasizes law in the Second, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits.   I also include a discussion of "reasonable" attorney's fees, mostly from cases in the U.S. Supreme Court or the Seventh Circuit.   This essay considers seldom-discussed details in law, which are economically important to litigants.

What does a copyright on a compilation of preexisting material protect?   After the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Feist, copyright on compilations of facts seems to protect the creative expression of an author in presenting facts. My essay on copyright for compilations gives the history of the law in this area and explains problems with the current law.

The law in the USA requires permission for either the commercial exploitation of a person's name or likeness (e.g., photograph) or recording any performance (e.g., music, entertainment, lecture, etc.).

I have posted an essay on common-law copyright in the USA, which protected unpublished works from the early 1800s until 1 Jan 1978. Common-law copyrights continue to protect works that are not "fixed in any tangible means of expression", such as unrecorded performances.

music copyright law

My main webpage on copyright of music discusses copyright of sheet music and sound recordings.   I have also posted a collection of links to resources on music copyright law.

I posted a provocative essay on defects in current copyright law in the USA that might not protect a new edition of public-domain works (e.g., musical compositions by J.S. Bach). This essay also discusses the legal standard for copyrightability of derivative works (e.g., arrangements) in music, and the minimum length of a copyrightable theme in music.   I am not encouraging anyone to copy new editions of old music.   The only purpose of this essay is to encourage enactment of a federal statute to protect the labor, skill, and expense of scholars who produce new editions of public-domain works.

Performance of music recorded before 15 Feb 1972 continues to be protected by state law in the USA, as explained in my essay on common-law copyright in the USA. Common-law copyright also protects a performance that was not recorded, or was recorded without the permission of the performers. The law in the USA requires permission from the performers for the recording of their performance.

copyright for neither ideas nor facts

It is a fundamental rule of copyright law that ideas are not protected by copyright.   My essay traces the history of the rule, including the reasons given by judges for this rule.   I criticize the lack of a definition for ideas in copyright cases.   I also explain the idea-expression merger and its history.   A section of my essay compares U.S. patent law (which protects some useful ideas) with copyright law.

There is weak or nonexistent copyright protection for nonfiction works, including compilations of facts, because judges in the USA decided that facts are not copyrightable.   The U.S. Supreme Court in 1985 agreed with the rule that facts are not copyrightable, and reiterated that holding in the Feist case in 1991, which also held that telephone directories were not copyrightable.   My long, technical essay on copyright of facts: As explained in my essay on copyright for facts, the current copyright law (1) contains no protection for labor or expense for scholarly research, and (2) weak or nonexistent protection for compilations of facts and nonfictional works.   Therefore, authors and publishers of nonfiction works should lobby Congress for protection.   After unauthorized copying occurs, it is too late to amend the copyright law.

I hope my essay on copyright for ideas and my essay on copyright for facts are useful to authors and publishers of: I welcome consulting opportunities from attorneys who represent publishers, authors, or copyright owners.

I have written a short essay that traces the history of copyright for compilations of either facts or preexisting material, quotes from Feist, and discusses some major compilation cases since Feist.

During April-June 2013, I prepared an annotated set of my proposed changes to the Copyright Act of 1976, as amended and codified at 17 U.S.C. §101, et seq.   My proposed changes strengthen legal rights of copyright owners, and better protect authors and composers than the current law.

fair use

My long, technical essay on fair use in copyright law cites many cases and law review articles.   I explain that many common practices by teachers and professors (especially photocopying for distribution to students and downloading files from the Internet) are actually copyright infringement.   I cite a long line of cases from the U.S. Courts of Appeals that hold that copying an entire article, or copying an entire chapter in a book, is never fair use.

Copyright 2009-2013 by Ronald B. Standler
This document at   http://www.rbs2.com/icopyr.htm
first posted 14 Jan 2009,   revised 15 Sep 2013

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