Re: Copyright law and Internet re-mailing lists
Well there is certainly a lot flying around on this subject. And the law
on copyright is confusing, not always clear and not uniformly enforced.
Unless someone specializes in the subject, it is difficult to keep up.
I work a lot in areas that worry about this sort of thing and my
customers hire some very high priced talent that specialize in this
subject to protect their interests. So I called one of these folks, who
happens to be a friend as well, to see if he could help clarify things
for me (us). Being what he is, he asked that I preface his comments
Please do not interpret the following as legal advice. If you have
concerns in this area you should contact your own legal counsel for
That being said this is my synopsis of what he said on the subject (and
it refers only to US law).
1- There is a registered copyright that you get by applying to the
Copyright office of the Library of Congress. This differs from patents
and Trademarks, although a trademark may also be copyrightable. At any
rate a registered copyright is not the type of copyright we have
2- There is an implied common law copyright on anything we produce. You
have to actively dismiss those rights to put something in the public
domain. HOWEVER, there are lots of caveats surrounding copyrights.
A - It has to be copyrightable. Lets not get into some of those
arguments. Lets just assume that our email is copyrightable.
B - Implied license and expectation. If you send an email to someone,
you expect that they will download it to their hard drive. Therefore,
there you have granted them an implied license to do that. So if you
send an email to a listserver, remailer or whatever, you anticipate that
it will be remailed to the list members (you would probably complain to
the list owner if it did not!), so you have granted the listserver an
implied license to remail what you sent.
C - There are fair use and commentary rights available to anyone who
wants to use copyrighted material in an appropriate manner. This is
generally associated with scholarly use, but can also cover critical
review and the like.
D - Personal vs Commercial use. As long as you don't use copyrighted
material for commercial use, you have a lot more flexibility and
probably don't violate the law.
E - There is no case law (or very little) that covers electronic mail,
remailers, web pages and the like. The recent international agreement in
Bern is not law until it is ratified by Congress, at first glance
appears to cover art, movies and music, and probably won't change things
much in regards to what we are talking about.
So in regard to what kicked this whole thing off - the MayTag Red web
page - What Donald put up on his page (with regards to the quoted
material) is probably covered by the fair use and commentary concepts,
and is not for commercial gain so is probably not a copyright violation.
With regards to the modified iris picture, derivative works are a
different issue and when a derivative becomes an original is a much more
fuzzy area. Once again commercial use comes into play, and the degree to
which you changed it probably makes it ok to use, but it would be safer
to get somebody's permission to use the original.
All in all, it would be good to get everybodys permission to quote them,
but probably not necessary.
There has been a lot of stuff previously said that is not quite right,
but I see no point going over it issue by issue.
John | "There are REALLY dragons here"
| Annotation used by ancient cartographers
| to indicate the edge of the known world.