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Subject:copyright law & internet correspondence From:Eric Muehling <FNERM -at- ACAD3 -dot- ALASKA -dot- EDU> Date:Mon, 18 Apr 1994 12:22:46 -0800
Re: copyright law & internet correspondence
I hope this posting clears up what copyright law is,
and offers insight into what the Internet's 'free-thinkers'
should know about their on-line correspondence.
Here is a summary of the U.S. law. Decide for
yourself how the law relates to copyright of casual
internet communication. The source for this
information is the Society of Professional
Journalists and the Copyright Office, Library of
Congress, Washington DC 20559.
COPYRIGHT LAW: In the U.S. copyright protection is
provided by law (title 17, U.S. Code).
WHAT IS COPYRIGHT: Copyright is a legal right
granted to the authors of original works that are
fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright
is an intellectual property right. As property
copyright can be sold in whole or in part. The sale
of copyright is usually done in writing. An
important principle to remember is that mere
ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, magnetic disk
or any other copy does not give the possessor the
copyright. The law provides that transfer of
ownership of any material object that embodies a
copyrighted work does not of itself convey any
rights in the copyright.
WHO CAN CLAIM COPYRIGHT: Only the author or those
deriving their rights through the author can claim
copyright. Copyright lasts for the life of the
author plus 50 years.
WHEN DOES COPYRIGHT EXIST: Copyright exists the
moment an idea becomes 'fixed and tangible.' A song
is not copyrighted until it is audio recorded or
written in standard notation (fixed and tangible).
Just have an idea? Sorry, your idea is NOT copyrighted.
If you express your idea in a fixed and tangible way, then
you have a copyright. Fixed and tangible includes
a magnetic disk, a photograph or painting, etc.
(fixed and tangible). You get the idea. Just
remember this: FIXED AND TANGIBLE = COPYRIGHT.
Ideas can not be copyrighted, only the expression
of those ideas in a fixed and tangible form.
WHERE IN THE WORLD DOES COPYRIGHT EXIST: Under the
Berne Convention, which the U.S. joined in 1989, a
work produced in the U.S. is entitled to protection
in other Berne countries (most of the developed
WHAT ABOUT REGISTRATION: Registration of a
copyright is not required under current law.
Copyright exists the moment an idea becomes 'fixed
and tangible.' If you choose to enforce your
copyright, then it is advisable that you put
copyright notice on your work. Copyright notice
tells the pubic that you WANT to protect your
copyright. Registration gives you some degree of
leverage in court should you sue for damages over
infrindgement of our copyright.
THOSE ARE THE COPYRIGHT FACTS (ABOVE). NOW, INDULGE ME
AND CONSIDER MY OPINION ON INTERNET CORRESPONDENCE
CONSIDER THIS: Typing at a computer puts data into
read-only-memory. ROM probably does not meet the
test 'fixed and tangible' however the moment you
save your data to disk it is fixed and tangible and
therefore copyrighted. (Here's a parallel. If you
expose film in a camera the 'latent' image is NOT
copyrightable until it is developed and visible.)
It is likely that your Internet correspondence is
stored on a magnetic medium by you or the recipient.
Interactive communication that is NOT stored by
either party is probably not copyrighted.
Once a communication is stored it IS fixed and tangible
and therefore copyrighted by you -- the creator. It
does NOT matter WHERE the data is stored for you to
own the copyright. That is because mere ownership
of a data (or a book, manuscript, painting or any
other copy) does not give the possessor the
YOUR GENERAL CHOICES: As a copyright owner you can:
1 Register and protect your work to the fullest
extent possible and charge for its use.
2 Register and protect your work but not charge
for its use
3 Register but not protect your work.
4 Not register or protect. Freely offer and give
away all rights to anyone and everyone.
COPYRIGHT AND THE EMPLOYEE: According to U.S.
copyright law anything created by an employee as
part of the employee's regular duties is the
property of the employer. This is called 'work for
I work for a university so the university owns my
work. It doesn't matter that I FEEL ownership of
my work or that I think my ideas are my babies.
COPYING THIS DOCUMENT: The University of Alaska
Fairbanks owns copyright to this document even
though I created it (work for hire). You are in
possession of a copy of this document (probably on
magnetic medium copy) HOWEVER you DO NOT hold any
copyright to this document. That said, please feel free
to copy this document and re-transmit it.
If you're read all the way to this point in this document,
then you know more than most about copyright. There is
a lot more to know. Standard disclaimer: my opinions are
not necessarily those of my employer.
All 'free-spirit thinkers' are welcome to freely
copy and re-transmit this copyrighted document for
others to read -- BUT please credit the original
free-spirited thinker who put these ideas into
words in a fixed and tangible form.
Thanks -- Eric
Eric Muehling / Information Officer
Arctic Region Supercomputing Center
University of Alaska
PO Box 756020
Fairbanks AK 99775 - 6020
e-mail fnerm -at- arsc -dot- alaska -dot- edu
For free info point your gopher to: aurora.alaska.edu