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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 02:19 PM
Original message
A brief discussion of copyright law and violations of same...
Edited on Wed Aug-11-10 02:26 PM by MineralMan
A thread in GD, http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph... mentions that DU has had a copyright infringement suit filed against it. While that is not what I'm going to talk about, it's the reason I'm writing this.

Whatever your view of intellectual property rights, there is a copyright law, and it can be enforced through civil suits. Here are the basics, in pure lay terms.

1. If someone creates a work, which can be writing, art, film, music, or any creative product, that person is protected automatically by copyright law against someone else using that work without permission and/or compensation.

2. If the person who creates the work, or who gets the copyright from that person as the new owner, puts a copyright notice on that work, then they are announcing to everyone who sees it that it cannot be reproduced without permission.

3. A work need not be registered with the Library of Congress to have rights under the copyright law. All that's needed is proof that you created the work or own the copyright in that work. The copyright statement is a good idea and notifies people that the work is not in the public domain.

4. You may have heard about "fair use." It exists, but it's not as simple as it sounds. Many copyright cases revolve around this, and it's very, very hard to define. If you post work you do not own, even as an excerpt, you'd better write your analysis of it and make that analysis the bulk of your posting, or you're likely not to be in compliance with the "fair use" standard.

5. Just because a copyright holder hasn't filed claims of copyright law violation in the past is no protection against such claims being filed at any time. For example: Many political and other cartoons are posted all over the internet, usually with no comment from the poster. Almost every one of those cartoons has a copyright notice attached to it, as part of the image. Most cartoonists don't follow up on these postings, but they can, and they can at any time. Cartoonists are poorly paid. Eventually, someone's going to figure out that they can make a pile of money by filing on these ubiquitous postings. I guarantee it.

6. You may believe that knowledge should be free. But the law does not agree with you. And, if you operate a web site that in any way collects money, you are a target.

7. You may think you cannot be sued, as an individual, for posting copyright-protected material on a site you do not own. You are incorrect if you think that. You can be sued. You will lose, if it can be demonstrated that you posted the protected material, especially if you knew that it was protected under copyright. A copyright notice that is part of the material is your notice, as with the political cartoons.

8. You may think that intellectual property has no value, so you're not stealing anything by posting it. You will discover that you are incorrect. Intellectual property does have value. You'll find, for example, that political cartoonists are paid by the publications where their work appears. If you post it without paying for it, you have stolen the customary payment the artist normally receives. Plus other damages and court costs.

9. As a disclaimer, I will say that I have been working as a creator of intellectual property for most of my adult life, and still am. I take it seriously, and have gotten paid by people who have published my work without permission. I have to do that. It's the thing I create. It's how I make my living. I've also written and created stuff that I've deliberately placed in the public domain, and have included a statement to that effect in that intellectual property. I've done more of that than work I've been paid for. But, a guy's gotta make a living.

10. It's worth thinking about all this. If you don't, you may cause a favorite web site to close its doors because of copyright violations. You may even find yourself looking at notice of a lawsuit. It happens. Don't be angry at me for writing this. It's just the simple explanation of a very complex law.

Bottom Line: If you did not create a piece of writing or other material that could be protected under the copyright laws, it is not yours. Odds are that it is protected and requires permission before being republished. You take a risk every time. I'm not sure it's worth it.
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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 02:34 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thanks.
K & R :thumbsup:
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LoZoccolo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 02:35 PM
Response to Original message
2. I think the copyright infringment of the woodchuck should be disallowed. n/t
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X_Digger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:34 PM
Response to Reply #2
16. Now you're getting into 'derivative' works. Another quagmire. n/t
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Electric Monk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 04:11 PM
Response to Reply #2
24. I disagree with your interpretation, as per usual. nt
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Nye Bevan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 02:40 PM
Response to Original message
3. You're right.
I will say that I have been working as a creator of intellectual property for most of my adult life, and still am. I take it seriously, and have gotten paid by people who have published my work without permission. I have to do that. It's the thing I create. It's how I make my living. I've also written and created stuff that I've deliberately placed in the public domain, and have included a statement to that effect in that intellectual property. I've done more of that than work I've been paid for. But, a guy's gotta make a living.

Copyright infringement should *not* be tolerated.
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X_Digger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:35 PM
Response to Reply #3
17. ...


(and my own meta added to yours) :)
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 02:41 PM
Response to Original message
4. Hell, I've got Fat Freddy's Cat as my avatar and that's from a
copyright-protected source. I'm willing to take my chances with it, though, since it's a tiny excerpt, posted as a commentary. More problematic, though, is posting an entire political cartoon, like the Tom Tomorrow ones, complete with copyright notice right on the cartoon. Other political cartoons fall into the same category. I realize that people have been doing that for years. That doesn't mean it's not going to come back and bite 'em in the butt, though.

Individuals probably won't be targeted, since there's little to get from them, but big websites are another matter. It's a risky thing, especially as word gets out that someone has succeeded in getting money from one of these suits. One suit breeds another, it seems. One day, we may see Dipshit, Dufus, and Dumbass, LLC advertising on cable television, trying to stir up business for copyright suits against web sites.

It's not hard to imagine. It has worried me since the beginning of the net and these discussion forums. I don't want to lose my forums.
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dipsydoodle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 02:57 PM
Response to Original message
5. How about this then
Edited on Wed Aug-11-10 02:58 PM by dipsydoodle
The law states a service provider isnt liable if it removes infringing material when notified by the copyright owner. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-11/viacom-appeals...

Does that differ because its a NY court or because its not the written word ?
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:33 PM
Response to Reply #5
15. Good question. The answer won't come until after the whole
appeals process is done. One or another of these cases is going to end up in the Supreme Court.

One thing's certain, though. If a copyright holder informs you that you are infringing, it's time to get rid of all infringing content. If this original ruling stands after appeal, that will be protective. If it doesn't stand, though, all bets are off.

The law simply isn't clear. It's going to take judicial precedents to clarify it. That's going to be very expensive for those who have been sued.
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dipsydoodle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:46 PM
Response to Reply #15
19. btw
I didn't find that by intent - I just happened to be looking at Blomberg News and thought it might be relevant.

Aside from that - is it, in your opinion ,reasonably safe to assume its ok to continue posting for example 4 paras from the BBC News site which is what most of us here are likely to do ? I've never heard of the Beeb suing anyone over such an issue.
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:56 PM
Response to Reply #19
20. That will probably continue to be safe, but...
But, DU is not my site. Whatever the site administrators say is what I'll do. Actually, I'm going to stop posting excerpts altogether and shift to writing paraphrases of the information in the article and link to the actual article. I know that's safe. I won't willingly do anything that puts DU at risk for anything.

I'm sure we'll hear from the admins on this issue fairly quickly. Whatever guidance they provide should be followed to the letter.
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Lance_Boyle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:03 PM
Response to Original message
6. Good gawds - this is like a cop giving advice on avoiding tickets.
"Just always drive at or below the posted speed limit, and if in doubt, ask a friendly neighborhood policeman." What a crock.

You are decidedly NOT an impartial voice (at least you admit that in the above piece), and the advice you offer is *ahem* slightly tinged by your bias.

Real advice on copyright - don't take advice on copyright from an author. See a lawyer.

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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:20 PM
Response to Reply #6
12. I didn't say I was impartial. And I'm not suing anyone.
What I wrote is simply factual, just as saying that if you exceed the speed limit you may end up getting a ticket.

I am not a lawyer, but I understand copyright law. As a professional writer and a software designer, I have to know copyright law, to protect myself from making mistakes that could cause me to be sued. It's part of the training for being a professional writer.

You see, you're posting on a site you don't own. You're probably not at any risk. DU is. You don't like the copyright laws. OK. But they exist, and I'm writing a simplified guide to how they work. You don't like me? Who cares.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:07 PM
Response to Original message
7. Does that mean the excerpts-only rule in DU is insufficient? -nt
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:14 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. That's not really completely clear. Fair use is in the
Copyright law, but it is poorly defined. Some of these people are filing the suits even in those cases. It's a point that is hotly contested in the lawsuits, and it's still not clear. Excerpting is evidence of a good faith effort not to infringe, but there simply are no hard and fast rules.

It's a hazy, undefined area of law. Sadly.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:17 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. So, let's say I do the usual. I look at an interesting article, copy 4 paragraphs from it
and post it here, with the link to the original source, and say, "Hey, look, I think this guy has a point."

Am I being foolhardy?
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:29 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. Probably not, personally. But, here's the deal...
Say the article was only 8 paragraphs long. You've copied 50% of it, and that's a substantial portion of the work. You add one line of commentary, so there's no real balance there. It is the copyrighted work that is the primary part of your posting. Now, it's unlikely that you'd ever be sued for it, because there's no money in it. The site where you posted it, though, may have assets that make a suit worthwhile.

In the case you mention, it's unlikely that your single sentence would be seen as sufficient commentary about the article, since you've posted half of the original content. It'd be a tough argument for the defendant's attorney to make.

It's all about proportion, really. Four paragraphs from a much longer work would probably be considered fair use, if accompanied by comment, even your single sentence, since it was a tiny part of the protected work.

It's not you that's at risk, though. It's the site where you made the post. And that's the problem. The plaintiff would claim that there is a long series of examples where a large proportion of the protected works were posted, with minimal commentary. That would weigh into the determination. Plus, if the publication like a newspaper, could demonstrate that this had occurred many times on the site in question, that would also weigh in the decision.

It's very complicated, and each case presents its own problems.

Over at Free Republic, they have a list of publications which have sent them letters saying, "You can't post any of our stuff." They have a filter that automatically rejects posts containing any content from those sources. In other cases, they've arranged for permission to excerpt and link. In other cases, they allow only links. They got burned once. They're very careful now, but stuff still slips through and now they're being sued by the same outfit that's suing DU.

It's a mess, and it's going to get more and more complicated for a while.

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Make7 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:13 PM
Response to Original message
8. U.S. Copyright Office - Fair Use
 
One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.

Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work.

The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.

When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of fair use would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered fair nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.


http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:17 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. The Key Words in that are:
Edited on Wed Aug-11-10 03:17 PM by MineralMan
"The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission."

It's all subject to interpretation in court. The problem is that going to court is very, very costly, and impossible for many website owners. If you don't go and aren't represented, you lose by default. This is what these vulture law firms count on.
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Junkdrawer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:32 PM
Response to Original message
14. Until the copyright suit is settled, only DemocracyNow should be cited on DU....
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mmonk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 03:44 PM
Response to Original message
18. What about news reports?
Such as AP reports that blah blah blah, etc. with author and link?
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dipsydoodle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 04:00 PM
Response to Reply #18
21. see #19 above and corresponding answer
.
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 04:02 PM
Response to Reply #18
22. If you're pasting the actual content, the same rules
apply as for any content protected by copyright. AP makes its money by selling its stories to news outlets, so they're very protective of their actual content. If you paraphrase their content, changing the wording altogether, then link to the original source, you've removed any risk of violating a copyright. We're going to be clicking to read content a lot more in the future, I think.

The actual words used in the original content are what's protected by the copyright laws. If you rewrite the facts in your own words or say what they're saying in your own words, there is no violation. For example, if you post:

"The AP has an article by (author) that basically says that BP has spilled 50,000,000 gallons of oil in the north sea. There's a lot of concern by government officials, and there are comments in the article by this person and that person to the effect that BP has committed a criminal act. Read the article at: link"

There can be no infringement of copyright because you have neither copied or published the words they used. You can go on for paragraphs, if you want, telling DU readers what was said in the article, but in your own words.

It's different, for sure.
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Kievan Rus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 04:21 PM
Response to Reply #22
25. That's true...you can't copyright facts, although the corporatists have tried to unsuccessfully
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mmonk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 06:32 PM
Response to Reply #22
27. What about quotes with attribution?
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 06:53 PM
Response to Reply #27
30. That one's difficult to answer. If the quotations come from an
interview with the writer, they could be considered to be "work product" and part of the protected stuff. If, on the other hand, the quotes were from a public appearance by someone, then the quotes couldn't be protected. It's complicated. It's also beyond my competence on the subject, I'm afraid.
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mmonk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 07:56 PM
Response to Reply #30
33. Thanks
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asdjrocky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 04:03 PM
Response to Original message
23. I'm impressed.
Is there anything you are not an expert on?
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 06:49 PM
Response to Reply #23
28. Sure. Many things.
Edited on Wed Aug-11-10 06:55 PM by MineralMan
But there are some things that I've studied. On those, I write. Thanks for asking.
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Ignis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 04:28 PM
Response to Original message
26. Isn't this "continuing a discussion from another thread?"
:shrug:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...

It's very hard to keep all of these arbitrary, unofficial "rules" in mind. :(
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 06:50 PM
Response to Reply #26
29. No, I don't think so.
Edited on Wed Aug-11-10 06:54 PM by MineralMan
There are a couple of threads about the lawsuit, one of which I linked to in the OP. This is a thread specifically about copyright law. You're welcome to alert on it, though, if you think it violates any rules. The mods and admins make decisions about such things.
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Ignis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 07:20 PM
Response to Reply #29
31. I try to save my Alerts for gross personal attacks.
But then, I don't make it a practice to badger people about continuing threads, either.

I find it keeps me honest to practice what I preach. :shrug: YMMV.
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-11-10 07:42 PM
Response to Reply #31
32. I only alert on attacks against other people. I don't alert
on attacks on myself. There are a few other categories I alert on, but never on posts directed at me. Other people do, though. I also never ignore anyone. I want to see whatever is being written.
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Ignis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-12-10 11:23 AM
Response to Reply #32
34. I applaud that.
I only started using Ignore when I found that some DUers were allowed to call me a "Nazi" and other awful names, yet they suffered no repercussions (nor had the post deleted) upon my Alerting.

When the system works, I use it. When it's broken, I work around it. :shrug:
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