Primary and Secondary Sources to Interpret Copyright Legislation

Excerpts from: Using Primary and Secondary Sources to Understand Copyright Legislation

Information about copyright law has never been so plentiful, or so readily available. With so much information at your fingertips, you may wonder whether you should begin with primary or secondary sources if you want a general education on copyright law or are searching for a specific answer to a copyright question.

There are multiple routes you can take when researching copyright, each with its own advantages. If you begin with the copyright statute itself, you are starting at the most formal level and working your way out from there. You will have the law in its purest form, but it may be difficult to understand the reasoning behind the copyright act and its application and methodology.

Judicial opinions can offer summaries of case law and also interpret the Copyright Act as it applies to specific situations, but they may be too difficult to understand if you are not a lawyer – after all, they are written by legal minds for legal minds. The legislative history behind the provisions in the copyright act provides context for the rationale underlying certain provisions and language chosen by legislators. Secondary sources such as scholarly journals, articles and books explain the application of the law.

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