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This article is written by Praveer Shukla, pursuing Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho. The article has been edited by Aatima Bhatia (Associate, LawSikho) and Ruchika Mohapatra (Associate, LawSikho).


Copyright is an intellectual property right protection that is available for original works. Since it is available for the author of original works, it is also known as Author’s Rights. Copyright protects a wide range of works which includes books, paintings, music, computer programs, databases, maps, advertisements, sculptures, films, and technical drawings. Copyright protection can be obtained for both protected and unprotected works.

When an original work is created, copyright arises automatically. It protects original works of authorship that include sculptures, books, paintings, articles, illustrations, photographs, songs, movies, poems, logo designs, software code, website content, and the like. The creator of the work is immediately entitled to protection and automatically obtains copyright for their work and any violation of this right is called copyright violation. Through this article, the author seeks to deal with publication of answers to textbook questions and whether or not that amounts to copyright infringement. 

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Copyright ownership

Copyright ownership entitles the owner to reproduce and distribute copies of the work, prepare derivative work, and display, perform, and broadcast the work publicly. It also grants the owner to authorize others to exercise any or all of these exclusive rights. Since these rights arise automatically, one does not consider undertaking additional steps and expenses to get a copyright registration. However, there are several reasons for which registration is required. These reasons are mentioned below.

Public record of ownership

The biggest advantage of getting copyright registered is that the owner gets a public record of ownership. This public record of ownership is very helpful in case of copyright disputes. Even if the infringer does not claim to be the owner, the onus is on the copyright owner to prove that he is the valid owner of the copyright.

Ability to file a suit for copyright infringement

The biggest advantage of getting copyright registered is that a copyright-infringement lawsuit can be filed only if there is copyright registration. A copyright owner cannot file a lawsuit to protect its right until and unless the U.S. Copyright Office has issued a registration.

Presumption of ownership

It is held by the courts that getting a registration before, or within five years of publication of work establishes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright. This means that the ownership of the copyright is presumed and anyone who challenges the ownership, the onus is on that person to prove the same. The presumption of ownership is valuable when an infringer is causing irreparable, serious harm and the owner needs an immediate court order directing the infringer to stop the unlawful actions.

Protection against the import of infringing works

The registered copyright owner is entitled to join the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program. The CBP detains and seizes imported goods that violate the intellectual property rights in the United States.

Eligibility for statutory damages

When there is no copyright registration, then in the case of copyright infringement, financial recovery is limited to the actual loss which may be nominal or difficult to prove. However, if copyright is registered, the owner is entitled to statutory damages as well as attorney’s fees.

Validity of the copyright

Copyright registration helps in the validation of copyright. In any case of copyright infringement, the owner can prove the copyright by providing the copyright registration certificate.

Copyright laws in the United States

The Copyright Act of 1976 governs the copyright laws in the United States, and it is a federal statute. The Act prohibits only the copying of the work. Anyone can copy the ideas which are contained within the work. For example, an owner of the machine can get the copyright about the written description of the machine, and not the machine itself. Thus, anyone can use the description to build the machine, while none can copy the written description.

Registration for copyright can be obtained through the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress. Newly created works do not require registration. It is no longer a necessity to place a copyright notice on a work for it to be protected by copyright law. However, the Act provides additional benefits to the registered copyrights.

Copyright infringement under United States Law

Chapter 5 of the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17) contains the provisions for copyright infringement and remedies. The infringement of copyright and the remedies available thereafter are mentioned under  Section 501 to Section 504 of the Act. 

As per Section 501 (a) of the Act, any person who violates the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided under Section 106 to Section 122 of the Act, or any person who imports the copies in the United States in violation of Section 602 is known as the infringer of the copyright.

The remedies for copyright infringement under the Act are given in Section 502 to Section 505 of the Act. These remedies are as follows:

  • Attorney’s fees.
  • A court order that restrains the infringer from continuing the infringing activity.
  • A court order to confiscate and destroy the infringing items.
  • Payment of profits made by the infringer and the loss borne by the copyright owner due to the act of the infringer.

Does publishing answers to textbook questions amount to copyright infringement?

Publishing of answers to textbook questions does not amount to copyright infringement. The reason for the same is that if the answers to textbook questions are subjected to copyright protection, then if anytime someone provides the answers to these questions, there would be a copyright infringement, which is incorrect. Questions are meant to be answered and if they are protected under the Copyright Act, then no answers would be provided by anyone so as to get protected from copyright infringement.

A copyrighted work can be used by any third party without the copyright owner’s permission if the use of the copyrighted work is for the purposes of comment, criticism, news reporting, scholarship, teaching, or research. These uses of the copyrighted work come under fair use of copyrighted work. The fair use of the copyright is provided under Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

In the case of Rogers vs. Koons, a photographer named Art Rogers shot a photo of a couple holding a line of puppies and sold it to be used in greeting cards and other similar products. An internationally renowned artist- Jeff Koons, in an exhibition of everyday items, came across Roger’s photo and used it to create a set of statues that was based on the image.

Koons sold several of these statues and made huge profits out of them. Once Rogers found out about the copies, he sued Koons for copyright, in response to which Koons claimed fair use by parody.

Upon hearing both the parties, the court found the two images to be too close and was of the opinion that any typical person would be able to recognize the copy. The court rejected Koon’s defence and he was forced to pay a monetary settlement to Rogers.

In the case of Feist v. Rural Telephone Service Co., a publishing company used the information provided in a telephone directory in order to publish their own directory. The main question before the court of law is if the names, addresses, and phone numbers are given in a telephone directory is able to be copyrighted or not?

The court was of the opinion that the facts cannot be subject to copyright protection; else there would be no spreading of information. Moreover, if the facts are subjected to copyright laws, it would mean that every time a person, who uses those facts in a school paper, or another book, or any newspaper, would be guilty of such piracy. Therefore, it was rightly held by the court in this case that the facts are not a subject of copyright protection.

In the case of Cambridge University Press v. Patton, there were 75 instances of copyright infringement in an educational setting. The district court proposed a standard basis of less than 10% of the book for fair use. Using the standard set, there was a conclusion that 70 cases were not infringed out of the 75 cases.

Afterwards, the case went before the Eleventh Circuit, which rejected the 10% standard set by the district court and emphasized the importance of case-by-case fair use analysis. The case was reviewed again, and it was found that the majority of instances to be fair use. To fall under the ambit of fair use, the following things have to be considered:

  • The purpose of the use, 
  • The nature of the publication,
  • The amount of work that will be copied, 
  • The effect of the copy on the work’s market.


Copyright infringement is a grave crime and there are various laws that are made to protect the copyright from being infringed. In recent years, the court has delivered various judgments which helped to provide protection to copyright owners.

Recently, there have been cases that involved copyright infringement with respect to answering textbook questions. There were many cases in which a question arose in front of the court whether publishing answers to textbook questions amounts to copyright infringement or not. The court via its various judgments came to the conclusion that providing answers to textbook questions does not amount to copyright infringement.

Providing answers to textbook questions and getting them published does not amount to copyright infringement as they are categorized under ‘fair use’ of copyright.


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