copyrighting public domain material. Was Re: Wherever you go--

Subject: copyrighting public domain material. Was Re: Wherever you go--
From: "Race, Paul" <pdr -at- CCSPO -dot- DAYTONOH -dot- NCR -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 1994 19:56:00 EST

>Yikes! I don't have proof of it right now, but I thought
>that "Wherever you go -- there you are" was one of
>Ashleigh Brilliant's epigrams and he *does* own the
>copyright for them, so please check before going
>any further....
>rwilc -at- fast -dot- dot -dot- state -dot- az -dot- us
Paul -dot- d -dot- race -at- daytonoh -dot- ncr -dot- com
Is that like the Murphy's Law calendar I had, in which the publisher claimed
a copyright on every page? As though every single Murphy's law ever
invented, including "If anything can possibly go wrong, it will..." was
controlled by their copyright.

While I am as respectful of copyrights, etc., as I can be, and I never
plaigarize, I don't appreciate other people claiming ownership of something
they have no right to. For another example, look at folk records of the
sixties, and a few recent recordings of folk songs. In many cases the
"artists" claim authorship of songs that were written two hundred years
before they were born. Why? Because, even though the songs were in the
public domain, the record companies were nervous about putting songs on
records without paying SOMEBODY royalties, for fear they'd get sued. So
they dumped the problem in the artist's lap by saying the artists wrote the
songs. That way if anybody got sued, it wouldn't be them.

So, do you think you should pay Canadian folk singer Oscar Brand .02 every
time you hum the Battle Hymn of the Republic? I don't think so. But you do
have to be careful how you use the "Happy Birthday to You" song, as we do
know who wrote that, and their heirs have a legitimate claim to royalties.

On another front, rumor has it that an individual has "purchased" all rights
to use the "Keystone" logo (that was Pennsylvania Railroad's logo) from
whatever conglomerate railroad now owns it. So now he is claiming that,
although it's been essentially in the public domain for the last 40 years,
and is used on every highway sign and license plate in PA, everybody owes
him money every time they use it for anything at all. I can't wait to see
him try to collect from the state of PA or better yet, from anyone who owns
an automobile....

Claiming the copyright for a common saying or anything else in the "public
domain" is one thing, making a legitimate claim of ownership, that's
something else. If Ashleigh Brilliant's copywritten work happens to include
a saying as common as, "Wherever you go, there you are," that's interesting.
But it doesn't convince me that AB owns all rights to the phrase.

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