Computer rights

Subject: Computer rights
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 21:25:13 -0500

>Any publication of a work (before it is protected under the copyright
>makes it *public domain*. This means both sending it out on the Internet,
>copying it for people to read on paper. (Case in point - copy machines
>in libraries.) The correct thing to do is to put a Copyright notice on
>the work EACH and EVERY time it is published.

Um, no. Under the current U.S. copyright law, Title 17 USCA, you own the
copyright on anything you create, barring your working for somebody else
who would then own it in turn, from the moment you put it in some fixed
form. That means you own the copyright on your internet stuff from the
moment of its birth. That's the law. Distributing your own works does not
place them in the public domain, although it's prudent to put a copyright
notice on everything you do. You must register your work only before
bringing suit. You do not have to register before publication. Technically
speaking, zipping off a quick copy of a page from some "Dummies" book on
the library photocopier is a felony under federal law. But who checks?

The reality, of course, is that a) the net is international, making
copyright a thorny cross-border issue, and b) it's impossible to actually
trace every violation. For those who are good little boys and girls, it's
probably best not to assume that anything on the net is public domain. In
actual fact, most of us hit the "print" button pretty quickly when
something looks cool, regardless of the fact that it's probably a copyright
violation. But here the culture of the net intrudes on the black letter
law, because the net still has a cultural overlay of freedom of
information. In the real world, just don't make anything you want to
protect into HTML and put it on a network where the culture encourages
creative and worshipful theft. I have little patience with anyone who
complains that his web page has been stolen. Duh. What a surprise that must
have been, huh?

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