Legislative History Examples - Newer Federal Acts

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Example – Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Issue – You represent a computer repair company.  One of the company’s customers, Company A, sued for copyright violations because the repair company downloaded some of Company A’s software.  The repair company asserts that the download was necessary in order to activate the computer and complete the repair, so a copyright exception applies.  See Westlaw 17 U.S.C. § 117(c).  Can you find any legislative history documents which will help the computer repair business defend its case?  [Facts are taken from Storage Technology Corp. v. Custom Hardware Engineering & Consulting, Inc. 431 F.3d 1374(C.A.Fed. (Mass.),2005).]

  1. Find a public law number.  Look at an annotated copy of 17 U.S.C. § 117(c) .  In the notes, you will see that section (c) was added by Pub.L. 105-304. OR  If you know the popular name of the act, look in the popular name table to find out the Public Law Number.  [On LexisNexis, Legal > Federal Legal - U.S. > United States Code Service (USCS) Materials > USCS Popular Names Table]
  2. Find the CIS Legislative History:  Click on LexisNexis® 105 pl 304.  The PL 105-304 indicates the bill number which the law enacted.  In this case, PL 105-304 enacted HR 2281, a house bill.  Click on CIS LEGIS. HISTORY DOCUMENT:  LexisNexis® 105 CIS Legis. Hist. P.L. 304.  The CIS Legislative History Lists all the legislative history documents and links to them.  
  3. Look at the CIS Committee Reports.  Because conference reports have more authority, look at H. Rpt. 105-796, conference report on H.R. 2281.  Click on CIS No. 98-H523-41.  Type in “repair” as a focus term.  The same can be done with S. Rpt. 105-190 appears to be on point also.  Click on CIS No. 98-S523-2  
  4. On Westlaw –  Find by citation P.L.105-304.  In the left hand column, there are links to legislative history documents.
  5. In USCCAN (United States Code Congressional and Administrative News) - P.L. 105-304 can be found in the 105th Congress' Laws volume.  The 105th Congress' Legislative History volume lists a Congressional Record citation, house and senate reports and a house conference report; the full text of the conference report is reprinted.
  6. On Thomas.gov  -  Click on Committee Reports, select 105th Congress, search for the House bill number (ie, 2281) or do a term search, such as "digital millennium copyright act" or "software copyright repair."
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