Friday, July 07, 2006

The U.S. Copyright code, in verse

The patent code is available here
The trademark code is available here

These verses describe
All the copyright code
Of the U. S. of A.
Written down as an ode

Some detail is lost
As you might have expected
A brief note about some
Of what was rejected

For most of the things
That you aren't to do
There's always exceptions
In one case or two

Most often a teacher
Can break all these rules
In order to teach in
A setting like school

And also a scientist
Or engineer, too,
Has leeway to copy
An item or two

There are other exceptions:
Recording for blind ones
Or making performance
For blind or for veterans

But I'm not a lawyer
Don't rely just on me
Go find one to ask,
Better yet, two or three



We start off defining
People and media
Terms you can also find
On Wikipedia


Copyright is for writings,
Music, dance, drama,
Movies, buildings everywhere
Even Alabama


Copyright applies even
When you're deriving
From copyrighted works
And no, I ain't jiving


Copyright applies to works
From any countries
Assuming they're smart enough
To sign the right treaties


If copyright is restored
All others must cease
If the owner gives notice
For twelve months, at least


Nothing the government
Makes is copyrighted
But they can buy copyrights
At K-mart sales, red-lighted


The owner exclusively
Can perform or display,
Copy, derive, or market
But do not dismay (see 107)


Visual arts owners only
Can claim attribution
Or prevent any display
On threat of retribution


Despite all of these rights
All people can reproduce
To report, criticise, or teach
Because that is fair use


And libraries, too, can make
Copies for archiving
If the works are all public
And no money deriving


You can always sell off
What you've legally bought, honey
But you can't lease or rent it
If you're doing it for money


Teachers, priests, and vendors
Can perform without charge
And also for blind people
Or veterans, small or large


Rebroadcasting without changes
To hotel guests is fine
If not saved, not commercialized
And sent at the same time


You can even make copies
To rebroadcast later
If you then take these copies
And put them through a grater


If your graphical work
Is on something useful
It's copyable; you'd better
Go back to art school


Sound recordings, but not music
Can be re-performed
As long as it's attributed
And not grossly malformed


Non-dramatic music
Whatever that means
Can be forcibly licensed
On a per-copy scheme


The same situation
Applies to jukeboxes
Without further "withal"s
"provisions" or "ad-hoc"ses


Copies of software
Can be made as a backup
Or copied to memory
In prepping for setup


Owners of copyrights
Can license them out;
For non-dramatic work
That's all it's about


You can also rebroadcast
To boost your own signal
But altering or storing
Is a violation, willful


Architectural copyright
Includes only the object
You can photograph or draw it
Or break it without respect


Non-dramatic writing
Can be copied for the blind
As a phonographic work
And that's even if you mind


Generally speaking
You can retransmit signals
Altering or commercializing them
Is mucho violation, willful



You own what you made
Unless working for hire
In a group, only your part
But you'll be much less tired


Owning work doesn't mean
Owning the container;
And you own the container
Not the work; could I be plainer?


If the copyright owner
Should sound the deathly chime
The spouse and kids gain ownership
For a heck of a long time


Copyright ownership
Is transferred in writing
And not by pinkie fingers
Or elephant biting


You can register transfers
With the office of copyrighting
But first come first served
No pushing no fighting



As far as I can tell
And I'm no expert yet
This section talks only about
What sections come next


A copyright lasts seventy years
After you're dead
Or ninety years generally
If they can't find your head


If written before '78
But published only since
Go back to the last section
And try not to wince


If written before '78
Your copyright's expired
But Sonny Bono changed that
Before he retired


All rights to a copyright
End when the year does
By which we mean calendar year
Eight days after Santa Claus



You can copyright notice
But you really don't have to
Put circle-C or "Copyright"
The name and the year, too


Sound recordings use circle-P
Which I never knew
And frankly I must say
I've never seen one, too


If mostly governmental
No copyright is needed
But a mixture may warrant one
So that notice is heeded


One copyright notice
Is sufficient for collections
Each author can place one
So he won't feel rejection


Before Berne's convention
And without copyright notice
Infringement was as innocent
As a butterfly on a lotus


Similarly, before Berne,
If the notice was erroneous
An infringer could claim innocence
Of all acts felonious


If you register your copyright
Don't loosen your collar
You're no more protected
And you're out thirty dollars


You don't have to send
The whole work in a truck
Just send the first part of it
With a check for thirty bucks


Just fill out the form
Fill in all of the blanks
And don't forget the money
The next trip to the bank


For registering, you'll get
A nice form in the mail
A judge may take notice of it
And throw someone in jail


You may need to register
To sue for infringing
Proving violation
Is on what this is hinging


In some cases damages
Can only be collected
After registered copyright
Has been properly inspected



If you violate copyright
You're a copyright infringer
Not a pirate, nor a robber,
Nor an alcohol binger


Any valid courthouse
Anywhere in the states
Can examine the infringement
And determine its fate


The court can decide to
Impound all the copies
And have them destroyed
Whether tapes, books, or floppies


You may become liable for
Both profits and damages
Not more than 150K
Paid in dollars, not sandwiches


You may also have to pay
For the lawyerly costs
A fee known to make tremble
Even heavenly hosts


If you willfully copied
Or sold things for moolah
Or fraudulently copyrighted
You're a criminal, so woo hah.


You can't be a criminal
If five years have passed
And no civil actions
If three years have amassed


Certain types of letters
Will be passed here and there
One month after filing
So pull up a chair


If they find copying hardware
("Now you're cold ... ooh, you're getting warmer!")
They may take it and pay off
Agent fees and informers


Any infringers
Of the cable persuasion
May lose, for thirty days
Their license, on occasion


Governmental employees
Will be dealt with as hard
So has anybody checked yet
On the president's Ipod?


ISPs, unless notified,
Even if they take action
Are not liable if you store on them
Illegal songs from Michael Jackson


If you charge way too much
For your performance rights
The public can sue and get
Relief from this plight



You can't bring to the U.S.
Any written stuff
Unless published here or Canada
Amazingly enough


The same goes for phonorecords
And copies illegal
So no photocopies
Of Charles Shulz's beagle


You can apply to bring these in
But they probably won't let you
If you try to bring them anyway
Custom agents will get you



The Copyright Office
Is staffed by some smarties
They advise and they poll
And throw pretty good parties


They also make laws
Like the ones that you're reading
To change just one sentence
Takes 'bout five hundred meetings


Any dates that are mentioned
Fall on next business day
I must say it's clearer
When written this way


The stuff that you send them
To register claims
May get filed or made
Into paper airplanes


They file, they stamp
And they make a big list
And they try to make sure
That no papers get missed


In a strange sense of irony
Befitting this bill
The copyright office
Can copy anything at will


They publish a record
Of all copyrights made
And they'll hand out applications
And then send you away


They sure seem to charge you
For all sorts of things
After leaving the office
Check your jewelry and rings


If your mail gets delayed
They may give you a break
Otherwise it'd interfere with
The money they'd take



A royalty panel
May certain problems fix
I thought we abandoned royalty
In 1776


A royalty panel
Is like a secret boy's club
To get in you have to know
The secret hand rub


Any owner affected
By new royalty rates
Can argue about them
If they're feeling irate



This section is all about
There's no rhyme for this word
So la la la luctor


Actually it deals with
Circuit mask creation
But only for nationals
And original work done


Mask copyrights are like others
Upon closer inspection
So frankly I don't see
The point of this section


Mask copyright lasts
For only ten years
The same length to which all
Other ones should be sheared


Only the mask owner
Can use the mask, duh.
I can't believe this chapter
Is fourteen sections, no suh


Here's something: a mask may be
Reverse engineered
Just not copied directly
Now, isn't that queer?


Only the infringer
Is liable and wrong
If you bought a copied chip
You can move right along


You can register a mask work
Within two years it's made
And then it is recognized
Only - surprise! - if you've paid


A notice on a mask work
Is a circle 'round an "m"
Once again, I say I've
Never seen one of them


If you copy a mask work
Without the permission
The government will use your head
For research on fission


Damages for mask copying
You will have to pay
Your equipment and profits
And maybe 250K


The laws in this chapter
Preempt laws of states
But other federal laws
Might make these dissipate


Your liability here
Might depend on the date
Be sure to read this section
Before you violate


These laws apply not just here
But in all member states
We will try to stop violations
Unless we're too late



This section defines
Many audio words
Audio is stuff that's
Not seen, but is heard


All audio devices
Must have copy controls
The reasons for this
The RIAA extols


Even with copy con-
Trols, you must pay
A "just-in-case" fee
To the RIAA


One dollar at least
For each audio device
But it may be that twelve
Is as high as the price


The Treasury holds onto
All of this money
And makes interest on it, too,
Now isn't that funny?


If someone makes claims
That their work has been taped
They might get some money
From the Treasury's take


They can file and make claims
And all sorts of disputes
In the end it comes down to
Those guys in the suits


The devices themselves
Are not covered herein
And neither is illegal
Song copyin'


If you didn't include any
Copy controls
You may have to pay
'Bout a thousand Royce Rolls


To sue someone for
Their sub-standard devices
Lots of letters go back and forth
Once, twice, and thrices



This little chapter
Only says that it's wrong
To surreptitiously
Tape someone's song



You cannot reverse
Any copy hardware
Nor sell any products
That do so, beware
Nor make VCRs
Without them, don't dare


Don't mess with the notice
Of copyright law
Or remove it, or people
Will say they "never saw"


If damaged by one of
The previous things
Take them to court
Until one of them sings


If willfully done
You will pay a high price
And double the bill
If you do the thing twice


A funny little clause here
It sure seems to me
It says that these sections
Don't trump privacy



This chapter deals mostly
With vessels and hulls
I hope I can write it
Without being dull


Designs must be new
And of uncommon shape
They can't look like something
A child could make


When working on something
Already in place
A new thing's created
If it has a new face


The design is protected
Only after its shown
Or to the appropriate
Registers known


The design is protected
For only a decade
And then any person
Can use what you've made


The sign of a copyrighted
Design is a letter
A "d" in a circle -
The mask one is better


Without the "d" notice
You can't collect costs
In fact, if someone started
You must pay what he lost


Only the designer
Can make objects galore
Although, frankly, I thought
That's what patents are for


As usual, if you make
An object protected
You've infringed, although exceptions
Are not here neglected


You've only got two years
To claim your design
So hurry and don't forget
To pay up in time


But if you have already
Filed the design
In some other country
It'll all turn out fine


When swearing an oath
You can do it in writing
I'm not talking here
About swearing while fighting


Your filed design
Is examined by those
Who may say it's good or
May not; well, who knows?


If you get a certificate
The design will be mentioned
It's shape and it's form
And all it's intention


The office will publish
A list of inventions
In order to forgo
Invention contention


And here's no surprise
To register costs dough
You should know, and that's why
I'm telling you so


More rules may be added
As they go along
This verse is much longer
Than the section is long


You can always obtain
A copy of your stuff
As if 1315
Just wasn't enough


If any mistakes
On the records are found
They might get corrected
If someone's around


Your rights can be transferred
If you're so inclined
And also the recipient
Doesn't really mind


Any infringers must
Correct their ways
If given some notice
At least sixty days


A judge may then order
An injunction of sorts
And the case may be taken
And decided by courts


A fine for misdeeds
Is a 50k min
And all of your profits
From doing your sin


Sometimes, however
The court may decide
The entire proceedings
Should be cast aside


For falsely declaring
That someone must pay
You'll be rapped on the knuckles
And fined 'bout 10k


For falsely inscribing
A design copyright
It's 500 bucks
And you won't sleep at night


Any other actions
Of lying 'bout this
Will lose you some money
Which surely you'll miss


For some reason here
It's the USPS
That must get involved
Into this sort of mess


Ah, here we go now, this
Says patents applied
Will throw any design copy-
Rights to the side


Design rules are subject
To trademark law, too
So don't misapply them
You'll pay if you do


In all that was said here
The copyright office
Means Library of Congress
To be quite precise


They're not retroactive
These laws written here
They only apply to things
After this year


Except for a preface
An appendices few
That's it, do enjoy and
Have a good day, too.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
Attribution should include a live link to this blog post, whenever possible; text link otherwise. License for commercial usage also available from the owner.


gnome said...

Brilliant Yehda...

(apparently you just can't get enough time-waisting)


Anonymous said...

Very clever!

Harold said...

This is amazing ... but you have way too much time on your hands! :)

Unknown said...

Thumbs up!

Andrea said...

Brilliant! The lawyers at my office got a real kick out of this. Thanks for the chuckle!

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thanks, but it only took three hours, tops. Hardly a huge waste of time; I wanted to review the code, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Lechayim from Canada.

Well done =O)

Anonymous said...

yeah...that's the way to go. touch it where it hertz....

Anonymous said...

That was probably more informational than reading the original, and certainly more memorable! I don't ever remember feeling the need to read out loud or forward links to friends when reading original laws... well, except in the sense of "you won't believe how stupid this is!"

Maybe the law makers should start writing in verse?
After all, the confusion could hardly get any worse!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

you made this fellow israeli real proud - just beautiful!!

Ray Dowd said...

Yehuda -
Some may think it perverse
To set code to verse
I think it's quite smart
But you missed prior art
And public domain
Where the code does refrain
From cov'ring terrain
Fair use a defense?
Parody makes no sense!
The law is creator averse

Yehuda Berlinger said...

ray - prior art is a term relevant for patents, not copyright. Public domain is after the copyright expires.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! Bravo! Don't forget to register your copyright in this master work!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! At last it makes sense! Now if you could only do this to Canadian copyright law I'd be set.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely outstanding! I'm not quite sure how one of my IP attorneys came across this but I had him send the link out to all the IP attorneys here in our office in Des Moines, IA! love it love it love it!

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thanks, shank.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this. Only three hours? You work fast!

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Wasn't to be bound within one place

Unknown said...

Simply wonderful! By placing it on the net, you automatically have a copyright on it as you created it; in the United States that is.

Anonymous said...

Hey man, I am in Alabama... wish I was in Yisrael though. One day maybe, G-d willing.

Anonymous said...

506 (criminal infringement) isn't right.

It should be something like

If you willfully copied
And sold things for moolah
Or fraudulently copyrighted
You're a criminal, so woo hah.

I also think the importance of of section 411/412/504/505 doesn't come out well. 504 damages are critical because the author need not prove actual amount of damages and can get attorney's fees under 505. Both 504 and 505 require registration w/in 3 month of publication (412).

from a beginning law student ...

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Anon, sounds like you know more than me. I'm willing to hear more.


news games said...

Yup. This is very awesome!