Copyright on the internet

Subject: Copyright on the internet
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 15:03:06 -0600

To clarify the discussion of quoting newsgroup text vs.
copyright: This is by no means a settled issue. If internet
discussions are judged to occur in a public forum, then
they enjoy the same protections as public speech: none with
respect to copyright, but the usual protections with
respect to misattribution, libel, defamation, etc. If they
are judged to be functionally identical to printed
communication, then they will enjoy full copyright
protection as well as the provisions for libel etc.

Big problem: Precisely which of the two situations applies
has _not_ yet been conclusively settled in the courts, and
where's there's no strong legal precedents, it's risky to
make assumptions. Err on the side of caution unless you
want to become some smart lawyer's chance at legal fame.

My opinion: I'm not a lawyer and don't play one on the
Internet, but one of the commonly accepted underpinnings of
copyright law is that the protected material must exist in
permanent form (e.g., on paper). E-mail doesn't exist in
this type of form, so it's likely to not receive the same
protection as printed dialog; there are no permanent
archives for every e-mail message ever written, and most
e-mail ceases to exist within days of its appearance. Web
sites, on the other hand, have more permanency, since the
publisher can keep them around forever if they so choose.
This likely qualifies them as "potentially permanent",
which means you should treat them as copyrighted. Again,
there are no clear legal precedents, so don't be the first
person to establish one the hard way.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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