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> HTML is virtually the same thing as reveal and formatting
> codes used in Word Processors. It is a language to describe
> how things look and behave on a page and that is NOT
> something you can copyright.
> As far as the Copyright comment above, you are correct. No
> product can be used to supersede a federal law. Using Meta
> Tags, formatting, styles is part of HTML, and that is not protected.
By the same logic, text is just a series of words that can't be copyrighted.
And software also can't be copyrighted - it's just a bunch of codes.
There are some problems with copyright on the web: the ease of copying, the
tradition of sharing, and the likelihood of multiple people coming up with
the same design independently. But copyright still applies, and people have
been sued successfully for copying material off the web.
> As far as copyrights on links, word lists, etc., it is not
> possible. Here again, I can use the same list of keywords
> you might use and I can put the same exact list of links
> on my page and there is nothing you can do.
Here again, copyrights get complicated. Besides the general web problems,
there is the problem that a list can often (but not always) be considered a
fact, and facts can't be copyrighted. But I wouldn't count on it being legal
to copy a list verbatim - the line between a fact and a fixed form is just
too hazy for me.
> When someone puts up a web page, they must follow traditions. They must
> understand what is and is not allowed. Because the web evolved as it has
> evolved, there are certain things that are generally accepted. The fact
> that someone does not like it means nothing.
There are traditions and laws. And they don't always agree. Some people say
the tradition is that you can copy anything on the web. That's not how I
learned the tradition - I understood it to be that you can examine and learn
from what's on the web, and that it is usually easy to get permission to
copy. But it doesn't matter, because the law is that copyrights apply to the
material on the web just like they apply to material anywhere else. Perhaps
they are less often enforced, but they do apply. The fact that someone does
not like it, again, means nothing.
There are also traditions on the road, one of them (in the USA) being that
the left lane is reserved for people exceeding the speed limit by quite a
bit. Law overrides tradition. Another complication is that copyright
violations are mostly a matter of civil law, and when you do something
that's illegal but customary people tend not to sue. And it can be hard to
show monetary damages for a lot of sites. But even if you think it's
customary to copy a web site's formatting code and graphics, and most people
won't sue you if you do, you could still get sued.
When you put something on the web, you have to accept that, if it's good,
people will probably copy it. And, by tradition, you should give permission
to copy whenever you can. But that doesn't mean it's OK for you to swipe
someone else's intellectual property off the web. I have windows on my
house, so I have to accept that someone may break in. If I walk over to my
neighbor's house and ask for something, there's a good chance he will give
it, or at least lend it, to me. And most break-ins are not prosecuted,
because of enforcement problems. But that doesn't mean it's a good idea for
me to give up tech writing to take up burglary.
Consider this scenario:
You are the CEO of a small company.
You hire me to build a web site for your company.
Two days later, I present you with a real nifty site - great format, nice
buttons, cool but undistracting mouse-overs. Real spiffy. And you pay me.
Then you decide, well, mouse-overs are passe, Jarred Spool says they are
bad. And you want me to remove them.
Well, I don't know how, because I didn't put them in and I don't know how
they work. [Fictional example - in real life I do great mouse-overs.] But if
you give me a week I can figure out how.
At this point, I bet you are asking "so, wait a minute - I paid you to build
me a site, and all you did was copy somebody else's site?"
I don't come off looking like a real pro here, regardless of what the Hacker
Ethic says about information wanting to be free. (Not to go real far off on
a tangent, but that's "free" as in "free speech" not as in "free beer".
Details available off-list.)
Yes, the web is about sharing information. But the customs are a bit more
complicated than "Like it? Take it!" Not a lot, though - much of the
material on the web can be yours for an email to the author. And what's not
can get you in trouble, because most of it belongs to big companies with
lawyers and no respect for the web traditions of sharing.
mike -dot- huber -at- software -dot- rockwell -dot- com
nax -at- execpc -dot- com