Glossary created by Berkman Center team
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First Sale doctrine
The idea that once the first legitimate sale of a physical embodyment of a copyrighted work has taken place, the copyright holder has no claim to control further sales or many uses of the particular copy.
The first sale doctrine is a concept found in U.S. copyright law, and in some form in some other jurisdictions where it may be known as ”exhaustion of rights.” For example, if a person buys a book (a physical paper copy), that person can resell the book without the permission of the rights-holder.
The first sale doctrine has become more important with the advent of non-rivalrous digital goods, goods that can be copied and shared without transfers of possession. The question of what it means to “own” something is now more difficult to answer. Many software companies and other purveyors of digital goods have attempted to handle this by saying that users are actually purchasing a license to use, rather than buying an actual “thing.” This distinction is often lost on users, though, who are frequently baffled and frustrated when they cannot do things they assumed they could with something that, in their minds, they own.
Reduction of a work of authorship into some tangible form, which is required for copyright protection in many countries.
Fixation is one of the fundamental tenets of U.S copyright law, and plays an important role in that of other countries as well. Such fixation might include writing something down, recording it, placing it on film, or making it. For legal systems with a fixation requirement, it is the fixing that changes an idea into a copyrightable work.
The fixation requirement can lead to some interesting results for creative art form that do not normally record or otherwise fix their expression, such as dance choreography, stand-up comedy, recipes, or the performance of live music. U.S. law has a specific statutory exception mandating that performers of live music still hold rights in it even if they are not recording it, and that others cannot record the performance without their permission.
Perhaps surprisingly, some jurisdictions do not have a fixation requirement, choosing instead to vest copyright in a work using other criteria. For example, Swiss law requires only that a work have “individual character”. Other countries with no fixation requirement include Sweden, Japan, Spain and France, among others. The Berne Convention does not require fixation, although a country may do so in its internal copyright laws without violating the Convention.
Free trade agreement
A free-trade agreement (or FTA) is a treaty between two or more countries that establishes trade guidelines so that trade between participating countries is theoretically unrestricted by tariffs.
Often, such agreements include copyright-related clauses.