Some critics prefer to regard "limitations and exceptions" as "user rights"; that is, rather than cutting down or modifying some idealized form of copyright, user rights provide an essential balance to the rights of copyright, or other intellectual property rights holders. There is no consensus amongst copyright experts on this point; see for example the National Research Council's Digital Agenda Report, note 1 The concept of user rights has also been recognized by courts, including the Canadian Supreme Court in CCH Canadian Ltd v. Law Society of Upper Canada (2004 SCC 13), which classed "fair dealing" as such a user right. These kinds of philosophical disagreements are quite common in the philosophy of copyright, where debates about jurisprudential reasoning tend to act as proxies for more substantial disagreements about good policy.
Two important examples of limitations and exceptions to copyright are the fair use doctrine found in the United States, and the fair dealing doctrine found in many other common law countries. Other more fundamental boundaries of copyright are caused by thresholds of originality, a threshold below which objects cease to be copyrightable, the idea-expression dichotomy, the public domain and the effect of Crown copyright. Even copyright maximalists might interpret these as defining copyright, rather than being "limitations" or "exceptions" to it. While fair use in the United States is popularly understood as the only limitation to an author's exclusive rights, other important limitations exist; in the chapter of the U.S. Copyright Code, section 106, the section that defines the exclusive rights in copyrighted works, is subject to sections 107 through 122 which provide limitations to the copyright holder's exclusive rights.
In the USA, The United Kingdom, and several other countries, it is legal to produce alternate versions (for example, in large print or braille) of a copyrighted work to provide improved access to a work for blind and visually impaired persons without permission from the copyright holder. (See references at Copyright.)
The scope of copyright limitations and exceptions became a subject of significant controversy within various nations in the late 1990s and early 2000s, largely due to the impact of digital technology, and the enactment of anti-circumvention rules in response to the WIPO Copyright Treaty. Defenders of copyright exemptions fear that digital rights management technology will massively reduce the scope of important exceptions. Their opponents believe that if existing exemptions are allowed to continue, they will necessarily allow huge amounts of private copying or piracy — if consumers can make a copy of a CD for their car, they can give MP3 files to everyone. The development of "permissive" DRM, such as that employed by iTunes, has not ended these debates.
Limitations and exceptions are also the subject of significant regulation by international treaties. These treaties have harmonized the exclusive rights which must be provided by copyright laws, and the Berne three-step test operates to constrain the kinds of copyright exceptions and limitations which individual nations can enact. On the other hand, international copyright treaties place almost no requirements on national governments to provide exemptions from exclusive rights; a notable exception to this is Article 10(1) of the Berne Convention, which guarantees a limited right to make quotations from copyrighted works.
The convention also allows exceptions for educational reasons under article 10 - although the extent of this exemption has been interpreted differently in different countries.