Re: Client misunderstanding of public domain

Subject: Re: Client misunderstanding of public domain
From: "Pro TechWriter" <pro -dot- techwriter -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "Traci Pearson" <pearsontechcomm -at- comcast -dot- net>
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2007 14:12:07 -0400

Aargh is right. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me too.

On 7/11/07, Traci Pearson <pearsontechcomm -at- comcast -dot- net> wrote:
> Aargh!
> I've got a client who insists that I use content
> that is posted on the Web in a manual I'm doing
> for them.

Other people have addressed the "public domain" statement. Even if you
*thought* so, I'd be darned careful about using any material that could be
copyrighted. My reference, "A Practical Guide to Copyrights and Trademarks"
says this about copyright infringement:

(From page 25) "Infringement of copyright 'willfully and for purposes of
commercial advantage or private financial gain' is a federal crime. Persons
* guilty of infringement of copyright for most types of works are subject to
a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment (!) for up to one year."
(Note that I think the fine is $15,000 now--my book is old.)

*Now, about Persons.

(From page 45) "Lack of knowledge on the part of subsequent sellers or users
that the original copier copied is not a defense to an action for
infringement." (Ignorance is no excuse!)

The author goes on to list an example about using a copyrighted magazine
article, and says all of the following could be liable for the infringement:

The person who made copies of the material
The publishing company who distributes it
The printer who printed it in a collection of articles for the magazine
The store that sells the collection

Pretty scary, huh?

<snip>The writer of the content on the Web is someone
> they know and, apparently, he said they could use
> his manual (what he has posted on the web) to
> give to their (my client's) customers if they wanted.

If the person to will allow you to use the copyrighted material and provide
the permission to you in writing, that would be great. Even then, they may
not allow you to edit it. That's a separate issue that you probably should
also get permission for.

Some free advice (and it's free, so take it for what's it worth) It would be
a very good idea have your attorney draw up a simple release form and have
the company sign it to release you of any indemification for using the
mateiral. I do this on a regular basis when in situations like this. If you
don't have an attorney you can call for things like this, please find one
:-) It's worth the money, trust me.

I told my client they'd better get express
> permission, preferably in writing, to actually
> use that content
Absolutely. Get the writer's permission in writing, preferably in an e-mail
(easiest) or certified mail so you have a date stamp. Keep a copy of the
permission letter in your own files in case this comes back to bite you.


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Client misunderstanding of public domain: From: Traci Pearson

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