Re: all this copyright stuff

Subject: Re: all this copyright stuff
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 1996 09:18:00 EST

At 04:55 PM 3/7/96 -0800, you wrote:
>I see post and riposte about whether or not copyright is being violated by
>copying this mailing list on a web page... and all I can say is, get a
>grip, folks. When you post to a list the information goes who-knows-where,
>and you're fully aware of it. Anyone can and likely will do whatever they
>like with it. Not only are you as a Net user aware of it, in fact _it's the
>whole point_.

>By clicking the SEND button you give up any and all copyright, and puhleese
>cool it on the attitude, OK?

>Eric Brown
>869 Drayton Street
>North Vancouver BC V7L 2C2
>(604) 980-6947 fax 980-6933
>eric_brown -at- sfu -dot- ca

Well, Eric, you're functionally right but theoretically far wrong. In
American copyright law (which parallels international law after 1976)
anything you write, including your letters, remains your property even after
it's sent. Therefore, it's technically a violation of copyright to resend
messages after they're once shot out of the OK server to the eager readers
on the list. You're tacitly giving your permission to that point. But
resending the messages isn't part of the deal.

That's the law. As you say, the reality is that the net is one big, bad
information-smearing machine and anyone who seriously thinks that he'll hold
on to his copyright once he presses SEND is a candidate for a gibber room.
It just can't really be done. And I can't think of many people who seriously
maintain that email messages sent to a list group will be held meticulously
and discreetly on a hard drive and not resent. We all know (and probably
give tacit assent to) that messages, especially hot and juicy ones, will be
all over the world within hours.

The major problem crops up when an email'er ships out a quote or a whole
work by somebody else who HASN'T pushed the SEND button. Poets suffer from
this all the time. The poet isn't tacitly giving up his copyright, because
some miscreant made off with the text and shot it all over the world for
free. Ditto essayists and newspapers. And artists...look at how little of
the art on the net is actually paid for.

This is where the law and reality have to grapple with each other. The
essential problem with endlessly resending messages isn't that the emailing
author might bitch...he's just locking the door after the horse has escaped,
in my view. But innocently resending email that contains material
copyrighted by somebody else is not only a legal offense but a moral one.
Being the transmitter of illegal material can make you just as culpable as
the thief was. That's why I rarely resend messages unless I know that it was
all chatty, friendly stuff that the sender would't mind having sent on.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice)
317.899.5987 (fax)

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