email/list Copyright

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

Hello Everyone.
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
Doug's questions.

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
our individual
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
guidelines.

The Copyright Office has many of its circulars online at
gopher://marvel.loc.gov/

Hope this helps.
-Lise

*********************************
Lise Hansen
hanse067 -at- maroon -dot- tc -dot- umn -dot- edu
Online Courseware Developer
Minnesota Extension Service
Educational Development System


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