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LAW 4023: Legal Issues in Human Resources: How to Read a Citation in the U.S. Code

LAW 4023

United States Code

A citation to a statute in the United States Code generally contains the following four elements:

  1. Title number
  2. U.S.C. (the abbreviation for United States Code in Table 1)
  3. Section number preceded by the section symbol (§) and a space
  4. Year of the code* 

Here is an example:

17 U.S.C. § 107 (2012)

*It is important to note that the date in a citation to the United States Code is the year of the code edition cited as it appears on the spine of the print volume or the title page.  It is not the year a statute was enacted or last amended.

Adding the Name of the Statute

In addition to this basic citation, you may need to include the name of the statute in some limited instances. According to The Bluebook, you may add the name of a statute as it appears in the session law if (1) you are citing to an entire act as codified in the United States Code(2) if the statute is commonly cited that way, or (3) if the information aids in identification of the material cited (Rule 12, p. 120, and Rule 12.3.1(a)). If you are citing to a specific provision, you may also need to include the original section number from the session law. 

For example, the statute above (17 U.S.C. § 107) was originally enacted as part of the Copyright Act of 1976, Pub. L. No. 94-533, 90 Stat. 2541, which is currently codified in Title 17 of the United States Code. This specific provision (§ 107) was Section 101 of the Copyright Act of 1976.  Therefore, if you needed to cite the entire Copyright Act of 1976 as currently codified in the United States Code or if it is necessary to include the name and original section number of Section 107 in a particular citation, the citations would be as follows:

Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101-1332 (2012) 

Copyright Act of 1976 § 101, 17 U.S.C. § 107 (2012)