Re. Copyrights on web info?

Subject: Re. Copyrights on web info?
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996 14:05:01 LCL

Suzanne Pyle asked about usage rights for material on the
Web. The short answer is, when in doubt ask for _written_
and signed permission (not a printout of an e-mailed note,
which is trivial to forge), and always cite the original
source. The long answer:

In Canadian law (in American law too, I believe; American
readers please confirm!), it's copyrighted as soon as it's
written; the same rules apply to graphics, although it's
much more difficult to prove that someone stole and
modified a graphic than it is with plagiarized text. If you
register the copyright you have a better chance of
recovering damages from someone who violates your
copyright, but registration isn't absolutely required.

If someone has written and published something, it's
copyrighted and you use it without permission at your
peril. "Fair use" (simplistically) means that your own
publication must consist of more than copies of someone
else's work with a few linking phrases; that is, you've got
to put more effort into it than simply copying the other
person's text or graphics. This is a subjective judgment
call, and you could easily lose.

Fair use never includes copying a graphic or some writing
and reselling it as your own. That's called theft. Using it
in (say) a nonprofit publication also isn't a valid defence
against theft, though you may be less likely to be sued.

One important caution: Not everyone will be as careful as
you are about determining copyright, so don't take anyone's
permission to use a graphic at face value unless you have a
good reason to trust them. I'm not being misanthropic here,
just observing that there's lots of copyrighted art
floating around the net illegally, and many users of this
art don't know that they've done anything wrong. If you
can't get a good idea of the source, look on the graphic
with caution.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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