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RE: Intellectual Property
First of all, I am in total agreement with you regarding the matter of
courtesy and respect. These are sentiments too long absent from discussions
regarding any public policy. Common decency has become way too uncommon.
And courtesy exists primarily in the dictionary. I for one am all in favor
of obtaining permission from the creator of any work before reproducing it
at least in the vast majority of cases. But I do not necessarily see that
this is practical in every case such as quotes in term papers or essays in
final exams for example.
Your comments have given me cause to reflect on the topic as follows:
On the matter of the law as a principal, I live in an "actual damages"
state. Therefore no monetary damage, no case. Certainly if the misuse of
someone's material causes the author harm in any quantifiable way or it
provides someone unjust enrichment it is actionable. Even if that harm is
only to one's reputation. We will no doubt eventually see matters of
emotional damages regarding copyright infringement for those cases where
there are no actual cash damages. So this matter is certainly unsettled.
In the past, there was a clear cut distinction between the spoken word and
that which has been written. When a brilliant orator addresses the public.
His words become the property of those who have heard them. He can be quoted
without impunity. If the word is set down on paper, stone or even papyrus he
can receive copyright protection. In the matter of the recent tobacco
company suits the confidential documents that were stolen from the tobacco
companies were the personal and confidential intellectual property of the
tobacco companies and therefore could not be entered into evidence. There
was no doubt that the papers had been wrongfully taken from the tobacco
companies. But when they were published on the internet (by the thieves)
that a Brooklyn Judge decided that they were published and therefore public
domain and could be entered into evidence. This cost the tobacco companies,
and eventually all smokers, billions. Therefore there is already precedence
regarding the internet being public domain. All be it, the judge did not go
as far as overturn copyright protection, but he did open the door by
expressing his opinion that the internet was publication in the public
domain. The tobacco companies had brilliant attorneys and plenty of money on
their side but they failed in their argument regarding intellectual
property, the studies that the tobacco companies had done and paid for were
their own intellectual property only until they were published on the
internet. And in their case the documents were stolen "trade secrets"
otherwise protected by law. The laws regarding the internet will continue to
evolve. As is usually the case, technology creates the problem and the
courts play catch up.
The question will no doubt eventually be resolved, is this message on the
internet an oration or a document? Does this message belong to me or to you
or to anyone else that reads it? When you read the law, it may seem clear,
but I dare say that if I found a copy of this message on an internet web
site I would have very little recourse for recovery. I wrote this message
without any likelihood of compensation and regardless of how it is used or
misused I am most likely going to get just that.
By the way, as you know, our discussions are archived on an affiliated
website. And under your concept of absolute prohibition, of any of the steps
I listed below, you would have to think that that is a violation of our
copyrights. I believe that I have also seen items from killitalk on another
web site. It is my opinion that the archives are in the public interest. And
as I expect no monetary compensation for my commentary I have no problem
with not getting any. I tend to see my comments as oratory not publication.
On the other hand I do admit that there is work that I will not post on the
internet. Saving it for publication or withholding it for myself. Maybe that
is a shame, I often regret the things that I feel I can not say for the very
reason that I would not want it reprinted.
When I was writing papers in college, I was required by my professors to
copy information from publications and even learned how to footnote same.
Certainly these papers were for my benefit more so than the original
author's. I do not recall ever obtaining permission to use any of the
material from the author or publisher. I recently wrote several college
papers for someone and I followed the same procedure with material from the
internet. (I know there is something not quite virtuous about writing papers
for someone else, but rather than going into that, I am illustrating my
point.) The only exception was that I did not need to retype the material,
cut and past made the job considerably easier. If college students were not
allowed to excerpt materials for their papers and dissertations and instead
needed to attach the original material, professors would need much larger
briefcases or spend a great deal of time on the net looking up all of the
In your reply below, you added a link to another web site. Legally speaking
you are including it in your message by reference. And as the link is active
it is certainly even more than that. It is actually "attached" by the click
of the mouse. Is that really any different from cut and pasting the material
into your e-mail if you appropriately referenced it? Are you not reusing it
to make your point? Do you have the author's permission to reference their
material for your post? Should you be required to obtain same? Is there
really any difference if you attach a copy of someone's photo or just attach
a link to it? I propose that the differentiation is minor and the same net
effect is achieved. If I were selling a fish and included your photo it
would be absolutely wrong! Agreed! But what if I attached a link to the AKA
web site where your picture is found? Different methodology same net effect.
I have recently read that several pay to play porn sites are attaching links
to other site's photos to get around copyrights. It is almost funny when you
think about it.
Again, I in principal I agree with you, using another's work without their
permission or giving them reasonable compensation is wrong. Courtesy and
etiquette should be followed. But I do maintain that the internet is not a
book or magazine. It is much more like a library where the items that are
posted are to one degree or another in the public domain. Adding a link is
tantamount to reprinting the material and footnoting it. I also contend that
this is a good thing to some degree. It allows us, as a civilization, to
share and preserve our knowledge, insights, wisdom and yes even porn. The
internet allows people without the means to otherwise purchase information
to benefit from it. In principal everyone benefits from the *free* exchange
of information. There must be a reasonable compromise between the author's
rights and the public's need to know. If I patented the cure for cancer and
then withheld it from the public or charged more than most people could
afford would that not be a crime in itself? The interests of the public must
be weighed against the benefits for the creator especially when the material
is already in the public domain. For those of us that are authors,
photographers, or artists, we should think carefully about posting our
material on the web. I recently spoke with a publisher that has been
holding off the electronic version of her magazine for quite some time while
her web people work out the details of how to keep the magazine from getting
duplicated and redistributed. Either way they lose revenue. If they do not
publish electronically they are missing overseas revenue. But if they
publish and get duplicated and redistributed they lose revenue from
potential sales. On the other hand I need to ask myself if the internet was
truly ever intended to be a profit center for private enterprise. The
internet was originally released from to the military to the "public domain"
not to electronic publishers and mass marketers. As I recall it was actually
set up by the department of defense at taxpayers expense. As I mentioned, I
for one, usually assume that anything I post to the internet is oratory.
When I want to communicate with someone confidentially I send them a private
e-mail and I of course rely on their discretion in keeping my work
Finally, Brian, I value your opinions. Even in those rare instances when I
find myself in disagreement, you always give me good cause to think my
position through. Thank you.
From: owner-killietalk at AKA_Org [mailto:owner-killietalk at AKA_Org]On
Behalf Of Brian Watters
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2002 2:07 PM
To: KillieTalk at AKA_Org
Subject: Re: Intellectual Property
TranquilityBase at NetZero_Net wrote:
> I would add one final example to demonstrate just how
> fuzzy the internet issue is. Those of us who contribute
> to Killietalk often spend several hours over the course
> of a month answering questions and giving information.
> Now lets say that a member of the list forwards one of
> your posts to their friend who is having a problem with
> their fish? This does not seem too bad. Now lets say
> that an affiliated not for profit group were to archive
> all of what we have written and post it on a link off
> their website? Would that be wrong? How about if they
> published a best of killitalk CD for sale? Would it
> be more wrong if another not for profit web site were
> to copy some of the information that we wrote and post
> it there? Would it be even more wrong if the other web
> site charged people to read our posts? Now how about if
> someone compiles our writings into a book or reprints
> it in a magazine and sells it for profit?
I believe this to be incorrect. Virtually every step in the process
that you ouline above would, strictly, be a violation of copyright.
Firstly, personal contributions to the internet are copyrighted to the
author, whether there is a copyright notice attached or not, and
regardless of the profit/not for profit use.
Secondly, all letters to e-mail groups such as KillieTalk are
copyrighted to the person who wrote them, again, whether there is a
copyright notice attached or not, and regardless of the profit/not for
As I have said before, I am not an expert in these matters but there
are people who have done a great deal of research on the subject and
you may be interested to look at the following that deals in part with
copyright as it applies to USENET/Internet publication:
Quite apart from the legal aspects of "using" someone else's material,
there is always the matter of common courtesy and showing some respect
for other peoples intellectual property, as has already been pointed
out. This is especially true in a group such as ours.
Brian R. Watters
Professor and Head
Department of Geology
University of Regina
Regina, Sask. S4S 0A2, Canada
Tel: (306) 585-4663
Fax: (306) 585-5433
E-mail: Brian.Watters at uregina_ca
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