OEM Documentation: Who retains the copyright?

Subject: OEM Documentation: Who retains the copyright?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2003 08:50:08 -0400

S. Despres wondered: <<When branding OEM documentation, who retains the
copyright of the finished work? the OEM, or the company for whom it is

Not a lawyer, but... In the absence of an agreement, the OEM holds copyright
because copyright must be formally transferred. A good lawyer could make a
strong case that giving you the right to distribute a document means that
the OEM has waived copyright at least insofar as your company is concerned,
but why get into that kind of hassle? Although the hassle might never arise
if you simply redistribute the OEM document, you could get yourself into
trouble if you rebrand it (add your company's name) or modify it (e.g.,
editing to reflect your specific use of the product) and cause problems for
the end-user. Who, then, is liable?

In such matters, it's simplest to do what most magazines and journals in the
U.S. now do: ask the OEM to sign a very simple, plain-English statement that
transfers nonexclusive rights to your company. The statement simply states
that the OEM can continue using the document for their own purposes, but
that they give you a formal, legal right to distribute the document with
your product. If you plan to modify or rebrand the document in any way, also
specify exactly what you plan to do with the document so as to avoid any
misunderstandings. If you have their permission to make these changes, they
don't really have any cause to complain later.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"Wisdom is one of the few things that look bigger the further away it
is."--Terry Pratchett


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