Re: Is your documentation copyrighted?

Subject: Re: Is your documentation copyrighted?
From: "Carnall, Jane" <Jane -dot- Carnall -at- compaq -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 10:27:28 -0000

Trish Green wrote:
>>Officially copyrighting documents isn't hard or expensive, but it does
involve passing your work through the governmental process (takes some time,
and there are forms to fill out), plus copyrights aren't perpetual. They
must be renewed once each decade.<<

Trish, since I see you work for a publishing firm, I would be interested to
hear back (offlist if the ERay says so) about this (specifically American)
system of copyrighting. I knew vaguely that the US has a long tradition of
slightly-different-copyright-laws-from-anywhere-else, plus (read Kipling's
ballad of the three pirates!) a tradition of ignoring everyone else's
copyright laws, but I never heard of this one.

Under British law, a document is copyrighted if you put the little copyright
symbol on it. (c) in brackets won't do: it has to be the c-in-a-circle.
Once you've done that, the copyright is yours for your lifetime plus 50
years. (Though the National Trust, who own Rudyard Kipling's copyrights,
have managed to get that extended to 70 years.) You don't have to renew it,
you don't have to register it.

If you self-publish, you can send 2 copies of your text to the British
Library (or any other copyright library). They're not required to accept it,
but they often do, and if they do, that's your proof that your text is
*yours*. They are, furthermore, entitled to demand up to 7 copies (one for
each copyright library in the UK, plus 1 extra) free of charge from

But when I write for a software company, the copyright of the documentation
belongs to *them*, not me, and how they safeguard that copyright is *their*
problem, not mine: I just include whatever legal text I'm given, exactly as
it is given to me.

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer, Compaq, UK
Unless stated otherwise, these opinions are mine, and mine alone.

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