Computer rights?

Subject: Computer rights?
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 13:17:47 -0600

Smokey Lynne L Bare, paraphrasing her copyright attorney,
noted that <<Any publication of a work (before it is
protected under the copyright law) makes it *public
domain*.>>

That may be true in a strict semantic sense, but it's
irrelevant. All copyright law that is based on the Berne
convention agrees that an idea is automatically copyrighted
as soon as it's fixed in permanent form. "Permanent" is
interpreted as meaning "the content won't change", not
"printed on paper", and there are explicit protections for
intangibles such as music (e.g., the laws against
"sampling" someone else's songs). Within the last year,
there have been some changes to copyright law, but they
have strengthened this automatic protection, not undermined
it. (I'm still waiting for my copy of the updated rules.)

If you've interpreted the legal advice correctly (which I
doubt... see below), then your lawyer seems to be either
out of date or providing misleading advice. If so, it might
be time to find a new advisor. Law is just like any other
profession: some workers keep up with the field, and others
don't.

<<This means both sending it out on the Internet, and/or
copying it for people to read on paper. (Case in point -
copy machines in libraries.)>>

I strongly suspect this is what your attorney really meant:
there's a difference between the legal definition of
copyright and the practical definition. The practical
definition, which has no standing in law, is basically "if
you can't catch me, I can keep doing it [infringing]".

<<The correct thing to do is to put a Copyright notice on
the work EACH and EVERY time it is published.>>

That helps, but it's not necessary for you to obtain
copyright and it won't stop anyone who thinks they can get
away with stealing your material. Registering the copyright
with your local national office provides only two real
benefits: it makes it easy to prove that you own the
copyright, and you're entitled to certain statutory damages
(which vary among jurisdictions) if you can catch someone
infringing and prove the infringement.

<<The second problem is the Internet itself. Once something
is published on it, it is very hard to monitor what happens
to it. It is possible someone else could use it even
though there is a Copyright notice on it.>>

That's probably the other point your attorney was making.
However, please note: sometimes the Internet can actually
make it easier to catch infringers, not harder. For
example, anything stolen and used publicly will eventually
turn up on one of the major search engines. I've seen at
least one case in the news in which an online service (AOL,
if memory serves) routinely searches to see how their
trademark is being used, and jumps hard on violators. Of
course, this doesn't stop people from stealing something
and forwarding it via e-mail; when was the last time you
saw the latest internet joke forwarded with the author's
name attached? Perhaps that's what your attorney is getting
at, in which case I retract my comments.

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


http://www.documentation.com/, or http://www.dejanews.com/


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