17 U.S. Code § 602. Infringing importation or exportation of copies or phonorecords
Scope of the Section. Section 602, which has nothing to do with the manufacturing requirements of section 601, deals with two separate situations: importation of “piratical” articles (that is, copies or phonorecords made without any authorization of the copyright owner), and unauthorized importation of copies or phonorecords that were lawfully made. The general approach of section 602 is to make unauthorized importation an act of infringement in both cases, but to permit the United States Customs Service to prohibit importation only of “piratical” articles.
Section 602(a) first states the general rule that unauthorized importation is an infringement merely if the copies or phonorecords “have been acquired outside the United States”, but then enumerates three specific exceptions: (1) importation under the authority or for the use of a governmental body, but not including material for use in schools or copies of an audiovisual work imported for any purpose other than archival use; (2) importation for the private use of the importer of no more than one copy or phonorecord of a work at a time, or of articles in the personal baggage of travelers from abroad; or (3) importation by nonprofit organizations “operated for scholarly, educational, or religious purposes” of “no more than one copy of an audiovisual work solely for archival purposes, and no more than five copies or phonorecords of any other work for its library lending or archival purposes.” The bill specifies that the third exception does not apply if the importation “is part of an activity consisting of systematic reproduction or distribution, engaged in by such organization in violation of the provisions of section 108(g)(2).”
If none of the three exemptions applies, any unauthorized importer of copies or phonorecords acquired abroad could be sued for damages and enjoined from making any use of them, even before any public distribution in this country has taken place.
Importation of “Piratical” Copies. Section 602(b) retains the present statute’s prohibition against importation of “piratical” copies or phonorecords—those whose making “would have constituted an infringement of copyright if this title has been applicable.” Thus, the Customs Service could exclude copies or phonorecords that were unlawful in the country where they were made; it could also exclude copies or phonorecords which, although made lawfully under the domestic law of that country, would have been unlawful if the U.S. copyright law could have been applied. A typical example would be a work by an American author which is in the public domain in a foreign country because that country does not have copyright relations with the United States; the making and publication of an authorized edition would be lawful in that country, but the Customs Service could prevent the importation of any copies of that edition.
Importation for Infringing Distribution. The second situation covered by section 602 is that where the copies or phonorecords were lawfully made but their distribution in the United States would infringe the U.S. copyright owner’s exclusive rights. As already said, the mere act of importation in this situation would constitute an act of infringement and could be enjoined. However, in cases of this sort it would be impracticable for the United States Customs Service to attempt to enforce the importation prohibition, and section 602(b) provides that, unless a violation of the manufacturing requirements is also involved, the Service has no authority to prevent importation, “where the copies or phonorecords were lawfully made.” The subsection would authorize the establishment of a procedure under which copyright owners could arrange for the Customs Service to notify them wherever articles appearing to infringe their works are imported.
2010—Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 111–295 struck out “unless the provisions of section 601 are applicable” after “prevent their importation” in second sentence.
2008—Pub. L. 110–403, § 105(c)(1)(A), inserted “or exportation” after “importation” in section catchline.
Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 110–403, § 105(b), inserted heading, designated introductory provisions as par. (1), struck out “This subsection does not apply to—” at end in par. (1), added par. (2) and par. (3) designation, heading, and introductory provisions, redesignated former pars. (1) to (3) as subpars. (A) to (C) of par. (3), respectively, and realigned margins, inserted “or exportation” after “importation” in par. (3)(A), and substituted “importation or exportation, for the private use of the importer or exporter” for “importation, for the private use of the importer” and inserted “or departing from the United States” after “United States” in par. (3)(B).
Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 110–403, § 105(c)(1)(B), inserted heading and substituted “United States Customs and Border Protection has” for “the United States Customs Service has” and “United States Customs and Border Protection of” for “the Customs Service of”.