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Subject:email/list Copyright From:Lise A Hansen <hanse067 -at- MAROON -dot- TC -dot- UMN -dot- EDU> Date:Sat, 9 Mar 1996 17:23:23 -0600
I get TECHWR-L in Digest form, so I apologize if someone has already
addressed Doug Engstrom's question about email and listserv
copyright. I just finished reading a book chapter in _Cyberspace
and the Law: Your Rights and Duties in the On-Line World_(by Edward
Cavasos and Gavino Morin, The MIT Press, 1994), that addressed many of
The Copyright Act protects "'original works of authorship' that
are fixed in a tangible form of expression" (Circular 1: Copyright Basics)
Electronic messages meet the "fixed in a tangible form" requirement.
With this protection in mind, requesting permission to re-post or re-publish
someone's mail message is not only good manners but also legally necessary.
Even forwarding a message to a co-worker is a copyright infringement because
you have made a copy without the author's permission.
Doug also explains,
>The people asserting copyright by the author proceed from the assumption
>that a list posting or
)e-mail message is like most other written work--property of the author
>unless the author explicitly sells or waives his or her property rights.
>However, it has occurred to me that the type of communication that e-mail
>and list traffic most resembles is personal letters, and personal letters
>are treated as chattel property -of the recipient- not the author.
Cavasos and Gavino explain that personal letters actually do belong to
the sender. They refer to J.D. Salinger's sucessful attempt to ban a
biographer from quoting letters Salinger wrote. In the electronic
world, the same principle applies: "any email you send to someone else is
your property, and the recipient can only use it in ways consistent with
your wishes" (Cavasos & Gavino, p. 56).
Finally, although each of us who post to TECHWR-L maintain
copyright, the list moderator could claim a compilation copyright.
Granted, what Copyright Law dictates does not reflect what happens daily
on the Internet. Much of what we do is, fortunately, covered under Fair Use