Copyright Law Research Guide

This guide focuses on one area of intellectual property law, copyright law, and identifies print and electronic materials on the American federal copyright law system, focusing on the Copyright Act of 1976.


Finding Federal Statutes

United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) (West; unofficial; annotated):

United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) (Lexis; unofficial; annotated):

United States Code (U.S.C.) (official; unannotated):

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For information on statutory research generally, see our Finding Statutes Research Guide and the Statutory Research Tutorial.

The Copyright Act of 1976 and amending legislation is codified as amended in Title 17 of the United States Code. The United States Code contains the official version of U.S. statutes currently in force, although it is a few years behind. Both the United States Code Annotated (West) and United States Code Service (Lexis) are more current and add useful annotations to cases and other sources. Current versions of all three sources are kept in the Williams Library Reading Room. Previous editions are located in the Historic Core collection; visit the reference desk to obtain materials from the Historic Core.

For help finding the U.S.C, U.S.C.A, and U.S.C.S. in print and online, see the Finding Federal Statutes box, left.

Legislative History

Select compiled legislative histories for the Copyright Act of 1976 and related legislation, as well as tools and databases for researching legislative history, include:

For information on how to obtain other compilations and legislative history materials on copyright legislation, see our Legislative History Research Guide or Legislative History Research Tutorial.

Proposed Legislation

There are a number of tools and resources useful for tracking proposed federal legislation affecting copyright law:

Some copyright-specific sources that publish information and/or analysis regarding pending copyright legislation include:

Congressional Committees: The Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on the Judiciary have primary legislative jurisdiction over intellectual property issues. Both committees' websites contain information on any pending copyright legislation. Occasionally, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation or the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will handle copyright legislation if it also involves interstate commerce.


For information on researching U.S. regulations generally, see our Administrative Law Research Guide or the Administrative Law Tutorial.  (If you are unfamiliar with the federal rulemaking process -- including the Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations, and how they relate to each other -- we recommend that you begin with these resources.)

Patent, trademark, and copyright regulations appear in Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  ​Regulations promulgated by the U.S. Copyright Office appear in Parts 201-270.

These copyright-specific Parts of the CFR are available on the Copyright Office's websiteThe CFR, generally, is available for free online (unannotated) in both PDF form and as the e-CFR (more up-to-date than the PDF).  Annotated versions, preferred by researchers, are available on Lexis (index here) and Westlaw (index here).  

Rulemaking Proceedings -- both open/current proceedings and select old/past proceedings -- are also available on the Copyright Office's website, in addition to being published in the Federal Register.  See the Administrative Law Research Guide (linked above) for sources for the Federal Register.

You can also find information about current & pending regulations in the Copyright Law Reporter (CCH) (see above).