What are the exceptions to copyright? (weekly widget)

There are a large number of exceptions to the exclusive rights given to copyright owners. In fact, over 1/3 of the text of the Copyright Act — sections 107 through 122 — are limitations and exceptions to those exclusive rights. All of these sections explain situations in which it is not necessary to obtain authorization from the copyright owner for a given use, even though that use would otherwise infringe one of the exclusive rights. Many of these exceptions deal with very narrow and technical matters, like the rebroadcast of television programs over cable or the reproduction of certain materials for use by the visually impaired. Most of the sections provide for exceptions to specific rights in the copyright “bundle.” Section 110, for example, lists several exceptions to the right to authorize public performances or displays, but it does not refer in any way to the other rights like reproduction or distribution. Only fair use, found in section 107, is an exception to all of the rights held by a copyright owner; when fair use applies, reproduction, distribution, performance, display and the making of derivative works may all be done without authorization.

For purposes of teaching and research, fair use and the first two provisions of section 110 are by far the most important copyright exceptions, and we shall discuss these three provisions in upcoming widgets.