Finding the Law

Governing Statutes

  • Title 17 of United States Code is of the Copyright Statute. The latest total revision was the Copyright Act of 1976 (Pub. L. No. 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541; Oct. 19, 1976).
  • The U.S. Copyright Office provides free, current versions of Title 17 in HTML and PDF. Users can download the entire Title and amendments, or specific Chapters, in both formats.


  • U.S. Copyright Office: The Copyright Office maintains an index of pending copyright and related legislation on its website that begins with the 105th Congress. The index provides the title of the bill, the bill number and the date the bill was introduced to Congress. If the bill became law, the index indicates the public law number.  You can also set up an RSS feed to be notified when any new copyright-related legislation is proposed.
  • provides access to bills back to 1973. (Tip: While is the ultimate source for the pending copyright bills, the Copyright Office gives users a better way to access information without having to search's entire legislative database.)
  • U.S. Congress Judiciary Committees: The Judiciary Committees of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have primary legislative jurisdiction over intellectual property issues, including copyright. Both Committees post the language of proposed copyright bills to their respective websites in addition to information on hearings and committee meetings.
  • U.S. Congress Commerce Committees: Occasionally, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation and the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee may consider copyright legislation issues if the issue also involves interstate commerce.


  • The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) publishes the regulations that govern the activity of the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright regulations are promulgated at 37 C.F.R. Parts 201-270.
  • The U.S. Copyright Office's version of the Code of Federal Regulations provides easy access to the relevant code sections . The regulations are available in HTML and Adobe Acrobat formats, and users can download specific Parts in both formats.
  • The official Code of Federal Regulations is available via GPO also provides  the unofficial but more up-to-date e-CFR

Case Databases and Websites

  • Federal Court Websites: Most of the nation's 107 federal district and appeals courts, including United States Supreme Court, maintain websites. Many federal courts make opinions available to the public even before they are available on commercial services. While case posting times vary widely across the federal court system, the Supreme Court generally is the best federal court at posting decisions online soon after the Justices have written an opinion.
  • USCOURTS: United States Courts Opinions (USCOURTS) collection is a pilot project between the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) to provide public access to opinions from selected United States appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. The content of this collection dates back to April 2004, though searchable electronic holdings for some courts may be incomplete for this earlier time period. Once an opinion is located, all associated opinions within the same case can be accessed from the opinion More Information page.
  • Legal Information Institute: Cornell's Legal Information Institute provides free opinions from all of the federal appeals courts, and many  federal trial courts.
  • PACER: Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts, and the PACER Case Locator via the Internet. PACER is provided by the federal Judiciary in keeping with its commitment to providing public access to court information via a centralized service.
  • West Publishing's Federal Reporter and Federal Supplement are the quasi-official reporters for copyright cases that are decided in the federal circuit and federal district courts, respectively. Available on Westlaw (password required).
  • Lexis (password required) posts new and particularly important cases soon after the court releases an opinion.
  • Intellectual Property Law Resource Center™ (Bloomberg BNA): This comprehensive resource center is accessible by subscription only.
  • U.S. Law Week (Bloomberg BNA): U.S. Law Week provides a summary and analysis of significant state and federal court opinions. Updated weekly, USLW does not focus on copyright, but it does a good job in publishing digital copyright cases. Available electronically by subscription.
  • Party Websites: Parties or amici that are involved in copyright litigation often will post court briefs, motions pleadings, and decisions to their website. Many times, key decisions involving the parties are posted within hours of the release of the decision.

Copyright and IP Case Reporters

  • Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal (Bloomberg BNA): The Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal has a slightly broader scope than U.S. Patent Quarterly, its sister publication. In addition to cases, PTCJ includes information on treaties, legislation, rules from each of the three federal intellectual property Offices, and professional conferences. PTCJ is updated weekly. Available electronically by subscription.
  • U.S. Patent Quarterly (Bloomberg BNA): Despite its name, U.S. Patent Quarterly, now in its second series, publishes copyright cases in its Digest. USPQ has its own classification scheme, but works much like the West Digest system. New cases are added on a weekly basis. Available electronically by subscription.