Re: Typeface/Let's Make it Clear

Subject: Re: Typeface/Let's Make it Clear
From: Vicki Rosenzweig <murphy!acmcr!vr -at- UUNET -dot- UU -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1993 14:31:48 EST

I have not actually read the copyright law, but (based
on such things as the Chicago Manual's summary), it
seems fairly clear that, under current US law, anything
that could be called "writing" (from poetry to recipes
to instruction manuals) is protected at the moment of
creation. That protection can be lost in certain ways,
most specifically if you state "Here's something I
wrote, I'm putting it in the public domain" or write
it in your role as a government employee. An argument
might be made that posting something to a public list
without a copyright notice, as we all do every day,
forfeits protection, but as Paul Trummel says, that's
an untested area.

Net mailing lists are another open area. I agree
completely that the list administrators do not own
the copyright on the material. Whether they, or the
institutions that host the list, have the right to
restrict the content of the list is a different question.
Does a university or company that hosts a list have
an obligation to pass on anything (regardless of
relevance, size, or anything else) that comes to it?
(Yes, it would be nice if they did so, but do they
have to? It's not as though we are paying for the

I agree that attempting to kick someone off the internet
is unconscionable, and that it would be wrong to say
that a certain person couldn't post to a list like this
because the listowner didn't like their opinions, but
I'm not sure it follows that anyone has a right to post
anything at all anywhere they feel like. I don't think,
for example (a deliberately unlikely example) that
any of us would be terribly upset if the host of this
list refused to pass along multiple megabyte-plus
postscript files that resolved to pictures of the
Starship Enterprise.

I guess what all this comes down to is whether a list
owner is entirely like the phone company, or whether
he or she is in some ways like the editor of a newspaper.

Vicki Rosenzweig
vr%acmcr -dot- uucp -at- murphy -dot- com
New York, NY

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