Electronic Newsletters

Subject: Electronic Newsletters
From: Jim Taylor <j -dot- taylor5 -at- GENIE -dot- GEIS -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1993 17:11:00 BST

Interesting and thoughtful discussion of copyright law has continued in the
Digital Publishing Roundtable on GEnie. I am a posting message from that
discussion here, and another one in the following note. After these two
notes, the discussion started to be a bit specific to GEnie,

Jim Taylor
j -dot- taylor5 -at- genie -dot- geis -dot- com

Digital Publishing RoundTable
Category 21, Topic 5
Message 8 Thu Aug 12, 1993
ASTROLOGY [Ed] at 19:12 EDT


Feel free to pass along my comments to the newsgroup. HOWEVER, that is
precisely the sort of action that can bring up all these types of copyright
questions and entanglements. <not sure whether to "grin" or "groan">

But since we have the issue in front of us (I _love_ real-life examples..),
here is the basic situation with a GEnie BB message:

- The author of each individual message automatically holds the copyright
to that message. Posting the message on GEnie does _not_ imply any
loss or waiver of those rights.

- Since copyright includes the right to _distribute_ material, any
subsequent use of the poster's (verbatim) message would technically
be considered a violation of copyright. This would include re-
distribution even if you don't charge for it.

- Because GEnie is providing a "value-added" service by collecting all
of these messages in one place, thereby adding value to them, GEnie
also holds a "compilation copyright" on the material as a whole --
i.e., the entire contents of GEnie, or the entire contents of a
specific message thread, etc. This means that if you downloaded an
entire BBS topic and reposted it somewhere, for example, you'd be
violating the copyrights of the individual authors of each message
PLUS the copyright GEnie holds on the collection as a whole.

<"Compliation copyright" is like the copyright a magazine publisher
would hold on an issue of the magazine. The individual authors
hold copyrights on their respective articles, but the publisher
holds copyright on the collection as a whole.>

Now, the issue of copyright on an individual BBS message usually doesn't
come up. As Mike points out, the messages are posted here (by and large) in
a spirit of cooperation and sharing. Moreover, most individual messages
have little value in them, so why bother to copyright them or to try to
protect your copyright?

However, sometimes this is not the case. Some of the astrologers in the
Astrology RT, for example, are doing original research and posting
preliminary results in my BBS. They need to have a mechanism to insure that
their original work will be protected until published in some "formal" way,
either print or electronically.

Same goes for this thread here. Suppose, for example, that I was currently
writing a book on copyright law....and that these messages are pretty much
verbatim what I was planning to use in my book. THEN I might worry about
whether or not they get broadly distributed, since if they did, I might not
have a book left to sell to a publisher.

But in such a situation, I'd make sure to include a copyright notice in the
message itself, just to remind people that, "Hey, you can't do anything with
this message (except read it) without my permission!"

So as you can see, the whole thing can get REALLY complicated, especially
when various types of copyright begin to overlap with one another. And this
doesn't take into account that copyright can be sold or transferred --
either fully or partially! I can give (or sell) you the right to repost a
particular BBS message one time only on a particular newsgroup, but still
RETAIN the rights to repost that message multiple times, to use it in a
book, to turn it into a movie <grin>, a CD, or what have you. The whole
thing can just make your head spin....

But what it all boils down to is that the author of any particular work is
PRESUMED to hold all rights to that work from the moment of the work's
creation (in whatever form it is created, including a computer file); and NO
rights are presumed to be transferred to anyone else without a written,
dated, and signed transfer of such rights from the author. For extra
protection, you file all of this stuff (including copies of transfer
agreements, etc.) with the Copyright Office. But the presumption, as far as
I understand it, is solidly on the side of the author.

Sorry about the long post... I've studied up on this stuff for a number of
reasons, not least of which is because sysops really have to know it. <g>

The whole thing can get _extremely_ complicated, even when just dealing with
traditional media. There have been few judicial tests of copyright law as
it applies to electronic media, so we are really still sailing in uncharted
waters here. What I've described above is the way most lawyers _think_
everything would play out if the law were applied to electronic publications
consistently with the way it's applied to print publications. But who

--- Ed

(Copyright (c) 1993 Ed Perrone. Permission is hereby granted to
redistribute this message, or excerpts therefrom, provided no charge is made
for such distribution and credit to the author is included.)

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