Rev. 2002-10-22, 2009-05-29, 2010-02-26
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The right to control copies of ones own
creative work has been a hard fight, a battle that has taken
Even as I write this more changes are being worked in the law to cope with electronic messaging and computer programs.
A copy of the law at the Library of Congress site
What is Copyright Protection?
In my lifetime there has been one major change in the copyright law and before I was born there others, including creation of the law. Shakespeare had no legal right to his plays and copies were made and published without payment or permission. He made his money in the acting company and sharing the gate receipts. During and before the Cold War, Russia refused to acknowledge copyrights granted by other countries and published pirated copies of books by the thousands. One of the major bones of contention in dealing with China has been her refusal to put a damper on unrestricted copying of music and computer media.
In the United States, until the late 70's, the copyright law was very limited compared to what had developed in the rest of the world. At that time, American copyright law was revised to conform. Prior to the new law, a copyright did not exist in fact unless it was registered. Once registered, the copyright expired in a couple of decades (I used to know exactly how long), unless it was renewed on a timely basis and that could only be done once. All publications had to have a correct and proper copyright notice and publication by the author without it would result in permanent loss of the copyright protection for that work: it would be in the public domain. Certain works lost protection because the notice was not given exactly properly: for example, if the correct wording was Copyright 1976 Mike Firth, then saying Copyright by Mike Firth in 1976 could lose copyright protection.
Under the new law, copyright protection became automatic upon
creation of the work (although registration provided certain ease
of proof of creation and the law allowed for additional penalties
for violation of registered work.) Further, the copyright
continued for 50 years after the author's death, much longer that
the previous law even if the author died right after the creation.
Even further, it became almost impossible for a work to go into
the public domain unless the author specifically placed it there
- if a work were published without a notice, a reader could assume
it was in the public domain and safely use it accordingly, but
notification that it was not in the public domain was sufficient to block
further usage and
copyright was not lost, provided future publications by the
author had the notice included. In fact, it is much safer to
assume a copyright exists than to assume it does not.
FAIR USE - Within the copyright law is
an exception to the protection given. Under a concept called Fair
2002-06-09 In an article on New Architect (formerly Web
July 2002, p.42, reports on a court case of some significance in
Fair Use. In this case a company, Arriba, searched the web for
images in pages, brought in a copy, made a thumbnail and indexed
on the alt words. When a search was made, the site went and got
the original image from the search and displayed it surrounded
with ads and Arriba information. A photographer, Kelly, having
posted his quality images to his own site to promote his work,
sued for copyright violation for the whole process. Arriba
claimed Fair Use. The author cites "four factors the court
used as guidelines for Fair Use: 1. What is the purpose and
character of the use? 2. What is the nature of the copyrighted
work? 3. What amount of the copyrighted work was used in the new
work? 4. What is the effect of the new work on the market for the
LINKS - An interesting discussion of the complications of the internet and being able to link to pages is found at http://www.law.indiana.edu/fclj/pubs/v49/no3/jackson.html . There it is said that using a link is not a violation of copyright, since the author is still doing the publishing, and also that links have weak copyright protection (my making a set of links and trying to copyright it to prevent others from using the information is not strongly protected.) Now that browsers permit putting a frame on the screen and then linking to another site within that frame, perhaps misleading the user as to who is the source of the linked-to site, life has gotten more complicated, and this is also discussed at the site.
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