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Copyright Issues

Due to the fact that I have had some associations with some dubious characters in the past, I need to make the following statement:

I retain the copyright to everything I have ever written, whether it was written under my legal name or a pseudonym. No copyright of mine has been legally transferred to anyone, with the exception of some educational material transferred to a Montessori school for their distribution that was paid for in full. For everything else I have ever written, I retain the right to say that any distribution can only be made if my permission is granted in written form. I hereby withdraw any previous permission to distribute my material in any form, unless you have my permission in writing: and I want to see a copy of any supposed agreement.

For more information please see: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html

TRANSFER OF COPYRIGHT

Any or all of the copyright owner's exclusive rights or any subdivision of those rights may be transferred, but the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner's duly authorized agent.

WHO CAN CLAIM COPYRIGHT

Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

If you think you have acquired the copyright to any of my works, which I forthright deny (with the above mentioned exclusion), then please contact me at:

mailto:[email protected] or mailto:[email protected]

06/19/2006

Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

Edited by Thomas M. Miovas Jr.
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06/19/2006

Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

Shouldn't that say:

06/19/2006

© 2006, Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

:D

Seriously though, are you referring to material you've posted to the forum? or is this some general announcement regarding material that is elsewhere? If the latter, is an announcement on the forum meaningful and does it have any legal weight?

Also, as to pseudonymns: do you refer to pseudonymns that are identifiable as being yours? If not, how can this be effective, objective notice to anyone who does not what psuedonymns you use? To be effective, I'd suggest that you must -- inter alia -- list the pseudonymns to which you refer.

Finally, can such an announcement protect work published before the announcement, and to what extent?

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For everything else I have ever written, I retain the right to say that any distribution can only be made if my permission is granted in written form.
Well, I don't have any particular objection to your saying that. But as you presumably know, your declaration is still subject to the exception in 17 USC 107, which is why I can quote you. Actually, your declaration is superfluous, though still a nice bit of politeness, because even without the public declaration, it's still true (and true for anybody in the US), except of course that some people may have in fact transfered ownership. So we wouldn't need to know your pseudonyms, since protection against copying exists, even if we don't know the author's name.
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Finally, can such an announcement protect work published before the announcement, and to what extent?

Note: This is not legal advice. No one may rely on this as such. If you have questions about your situation, talk to a lawyer. I am not one--yet.

softwareNerd, an original work of authorship is protected as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. 17 U.S.C. 102(a). You write a song and put it on paper, or record it on a CD or your computer, or type it up on music software like Finale, that's fixed in a tangible medium of expression. You sing it to yourself in the shower but never write it down, you get no federal protection. (You might still be protected under state law. The federal Copyright Act preempts state law only to the extent of its coverage, which does not include works not fixed in a tangible medium.) The announcement doesn't mean anything insofar as copyrightability is concerned. Basically, what David said, but with a couple citations. :)

I also can't think of anything apart from copyrightability that the announcement would do. Would it help prove access (one of the required elements of a successful infringement claim)? I don't think so. It also wouldn't affect an innocent infringer/independent creation defense that I can see. This isn't a copyright notice on an actual copy of the work, as in 401.

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Am I reading this wrong, or are you saying that the notices like "© 2006, My Company" that I put on all sorts of work-products is not necessary?
17 USC 401 says that "a notice of copyright as provided by this section may be placed on publicly distributed copies" (emphasis added), and if you do then "no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages...". From what I can tell, this means that while infringement is infringement with or without the notice, the courts are allowed to take into consideration the presence or absence of © in determining how the defendant should be actually punished. In other words, "self defense" is a defense against a murder charge, but "innocent infringement" is not a defense, though from a bottom-line POV it may seem the same. Or, to put it more pointedly, ignorance of the law is an weak excuse. (And, this is about current law: before we changed the law in 1989, the notice was obligatory; IMO that should not have changed).

17 USC 411 says that "no action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title", and then 17 USC 412 says that "no award of statutory damages or of attorney’s fees...shall be made for...any infringement of copyright commenced after first publication of the work and before the effective date of its registration". I cut out irrelevant exception language to make it more comprehensible. Basically, this tells me that registration is more important than the circle-c.

And hire an IP lawyer at a billion dollars an hour if you want a professional but non-binding opinion.

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So does this mean that anything posted on forums such as this one is automatically protected by US copyright laws? How many words have to be strung together before it counts? I hereby claim copyright to the phrase 'life sucks' and I want royalties whenever it's used.

@DavidOdden: Are you a dubious character? I'm not sure I want to discuss things with dubious characters who might quote me without asking.... :)

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So does this mean that anything posted on forums such as this one is automatically protected by US copyright laws? How many words have to be strung together before it counts? I hereby claim copyright to the phrase 'life sucks' and I want royalties whenever it's used.
Well, you also can't lay claim to specific words and phrases. For instance, as the copyright office sez you can't claim protection for "titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents". I still find copyright law wierd, but the basic idea of the law is that only the owner of the right may copy a protected work. There exists a protected work that contains the sentence "Another aspect of language sound which a phonological analysis would take account of is that in any given language, certain combinations of sounds are allowed, but other combinations are systematically impossible." I opine that if you were to steal that sentence and publish it without permission, the owner of the work could sue you for damages (probably about a nickle) because you would have copied the sentence contra legem. Furthermore, even if you say "A further aspect of language sound which a phonological analysis would take account of is that in any given language, certain combinations of sounds are allowed, but other combinations are systematically blocked", the author could legally hound you. However, if you were to publish just "certain combinations of sounds are allowed", the author would not have much luck hounding you. I found the same phrase appearing in another author's work; the idea is that the original text has near-zero likelihood of being independently reproduced whereas the short phrase has a real probability of being constructed independently. I am becoming of the opinion that nobody knows how much similarity is too much: it's like porn ("know it when you see it", not "easily available").

One impediment to collecting, if you start going after people who copy your material from an online forum, is that you probably cannot prove actual damages, since you're giving it away. However, suppose I were to start collecting and distributing Harry Binswanger's writings on HBL, then I would be quite suable since he actually charges people for his writings, so my giving them away would constitute actual damage to him. I think though that I could get an injunction against you for stealing my sentence, assuming of course you can't 107 me, and I think (a guess) that stopping the infringement is the focus of most litigation when it comes to online stuff. Also, I assume that you registered your copyright.

I am, as far as I know, not a dubious character. I'm more of a certain character.

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Basically, this tells me that registration is more important than the circle-c.

You make an important point about registration. Yes, while it is true that your work is automatically protected by copyright laws the very moment that it is created, in order to get full and maximum legal protection, you must register the work with the US Copyright office and pay the filing fee of $30.

The good news is that this $30 fee is not per item protected but rather for each submission. For example, professional photographers protect themselves by registering their photographs with the US Copyright office. They don't pay $30 per image, however. What they do is submit page after page of contact proofs - and you can get a lot of contact images on a sheet - and then copyright the entire submission as a whole which extends protection to each and every photograph that happens to be included.

The reason you will want to have registration is because it enables you to collect attorney fees as well as statutory damages. Without registration, all you can collect is any monetary losses that you might be able to prove the the infringement caused you or any monetary gain that it can be demonstrated that the infringer made from use of the copyrighted work. For most of us who engage in the creation of intellectual property as a hobby and on a strictly amateur basis this can be important because the ability for a hobbiest to prove monetary loss might be, I suspect, rather difficult. And if the work is infringed by another amateur - for example, a non-commercial personal website - chances are that the other person will not realize much, if any, monetary gain from the infringement.

One thing that is important with registration is timing. Your best protection is to have your work registered prior to publication - but, for practical reasons, that is not always possible. According to one website that I have bookmarked which I suspect is a bit out of date, as long as you submit the work within 90 days of publication, you can be protected retroactively from the date of original publication. For work that has been published prior to 90 days, my understanding is that, while it can still be registered, it is a bit more difficult and the standards for eligibility become more difficult the further back the date of publication was.

The bottom line is, for most of us, to claim damages from an unregistered work is not very practical. The actual damages which might be awarded will very frequently not be enough to cover the cost of the attorney fees, assuming one can afford such an attorney to begin with. And even with registration, if the infringer is someone who does not have much in the way of assets, there is not really much that you can do other than to stop the infringement - you can't get money from someone who doesn't have any. On the other hand, if your registered work is infringed by a commercial enterprise, it might be worth your while to take the matter to court if your case is strong enough. You might end up with your attorney fees paid for and far more money in your pocket than what they would proably have had to pay if they had only licensed the material from you in the first place.

Here are a couple of links on the subject to sites that have helped me understand the issue better:

http://www.peterkrogh.com/copyright/main.html (this site is about copyrighting photographs)

http://www.keytlaw.com/Copyrights/benefits.htm

http://www.keytlaw.com/Copyrights/cheese.htm

Edited by Dismuke
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One impediment to collecting, if you start going after people who copy your material from an online forum, is that you probably cannot prove actual damages, since you're giving it away.

Ah, the power of 504( c). :D

I am, as far as I know, not a dubious character. I'm more of a certain character.
Not wanting to be sued for defamation, I offer no comment on this, despite the fact that truth is a defense.

So does this mean that anything posted on forums such as this one is automatically protected by US copyright laws? How many words have to be strung together before it counts? I hereby claim copyright to the phrase 'life sucks' and I want royalties whenever it's used.

There are two prerequisites to federal copyright protection. You have to have (1) an original work of authorship (2) fixed in a tangible medium of expression. The standard for "original work of authorship" is pretty loose. Courts have used terms like "minimal degree of creativity." For a case discussing this idea as well as the fact/expression dichotomy, see Feist.

Even if you can't get copyright protection, you might be able to get trademark protection for a phrase like that if you're using it in connection with a business.

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Since member number 2,508 has revoked ALL permissions to use his writing (except for a certain customer of his), I presume that I cannot even use his name or quote from his posted message. In fact, it would appear that GreedyCapitalist must immediately delete all of his messages from the forum to avoid violating his copyright. Oddly, this would include the message which makes his demand. How bizarre. :)

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Since member number 2,508 has revoked ALL permissions to use his writing (except for a certain customer of his), I presume that I cannot even use his name or quote from his posted message.

Well......no. One cannot copyright one's name or prevent people from referring to it. And fair use allows people to quote from works which are protected by copyright. One does not need to seek permission to do so. If a writer were to request that people do so, that is all it would be - a request which imposes no legal obligations. I don't think such a request would even have much power in the way of moral obligations. Suppose I plan to write a book review to expose the dishonesty and evil of the author and the book's contents and, in order to provide my readers with concrete examples, I plan to quote certain particularly horrible passages. If the author learned of my planned review and asked that I not quote from those passages on grounds that he is the author of the work, I would basically cite fair use and tell him where to go.

Copyright does not extend the right to prevent another person from taking about one's work - which is what fair use provisions allow for. If one does not wish others to talk about one's work, one should not publish it or he should find a way to require all who buy it to sign a legally binding confidentiality agreement.

In fact, it would appear that GreedyCapitalist must immediately delete all of his messages from the forum to avoid violating his copyright. Oddly, this would include the message which makes his demand.

No, it wouldn't. Tom personally submitted all of his messages which appear in this forum - so, in doing so, he granted permission for them to appear here. What rights GreedyCapitalist has to do with submitted messages from this point forward is a different matter. I suspect it is entirely possible for an owner of a message board to impose certain terms and conditions on messages submitted - for example, a non-exclusive right to reproduce the work elsewhere such as a "Best of Objectivism Online" print publication if GreedyCapitalist ever thought something like that would be commercially viable. Presumably to do so the owner would need to announce it ahead of time in the Terms and Conditions that people agree to when the become members. So if one is concerned about such things, it would be wise to find out before submitting postings to an online forum.

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As a point of clarification, certainly I want my work submitted to this website forum to be distributed via the website server distribution system -- else why would I post to this forum in the first place? Effectively, I grant the owner / operators of this website a non-exclusive license to redistribute my work offered here within certain limits. From time to time I will participate in an ad hoc intellectual activism issue website / forum where the owner / operators claim ownership of everything written to it, but then my participation becomes very limited.

After having posted to a forum for quite some time, the owner decided that everything I (and everyone else) posted to that forum was the property of the forum owner / operators *and* that what was posted there was exclusive to that forum; but I protested that decision, claiming that I hadn't been paid for my work and that if he wanted exclusivity and copyright ownership, then he would have to pay me for my work. He basically then decided that effectively he had obtained a non-exclusive license to redistribute the works posted to the forum via the forum, which is what everyone participating in the forum thought he had meant from the beginning anyhow.

So, just because some of my work has / had a wide distribution through various methods, it doesn't mean that I have signed away my copyrights; unless that is specified in the Terms and Conditions of participating in that forum.

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He basically then decided that effectively he had obtained a non-exclusive license to redistribute the works posted to the forum via the forum, which is what everyone participating in the forum thought he had meant from the beginning anyhow.
Insert standard disclaimer about taking an amateur opinion to be actual legal advice: my guess is that unless there is some explicit license document, he does not in fact have a non-exclusive license. It is certainly reasonable to assume that you have implicitly given him permission to copy, as long as we assume that you yourself did submit that material knowing that it would be posted permanently. Now, AFAIK you cannot lose your (exclusive) copyright by posting to a forum, no matter what a Terms and Conditions file may say. That requires a written and signed agreement.
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As the owner of the forum, I’ll mention that the general understanding of the posts above is correct: your participation gives me a non-exclusive, non-revocable right to publish your contributions here, or in a complete or selected archive.

In the past, some members have claimed that they had a right to revoke their contributions, and even sent me legal threats - that’s how the one hour edit limit came about.

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In the past, some members have claimed that they had a right to revoke their contributions, and even sent me legal threats - that’s how the one hour edit limit came about.

I understand you wanting to keep all the posts going, for context of replies, if nothing else. But why not remove them if someone asks you to? Would that involve a lot of effort on your part and also mess up the context of the thread?

What do you mean by a one hour edit limit? Does that mean I only have one hour to decide if I really want my post to be read on your forum or not?

I was involved in one forum, an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) forum, in which I asked them to remove one session I had hosted, because I very strongly disagreed with what I had written about a week later. Out of courtesy to me, they did remove it from the archives. However, IRC is very extemporaneous, like a conversation while it is happening, and there isn't much time to edit as one writes.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Looking into the details of copyright rules in the U.S., I cam across this summary. The rules are far more complicated than I expected it to be.

For older works, the copyright notice does make a difference to the duration of the copyright. For works between 1923 and 1963 the duration also changes depending on whether or not the copyright was renewed.

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I understand you wanting to keep all the posts going, for context of replies, if nothing else. But why not remove them if someone asks you to? Would that involve a lot of effort on your part and also mess up the context of the thread?

Yes, because we have a policy about not messing with peoples' posts without some form of general notification (such as placing the post in the Trash Can), and removing a member's posts would mean posting hundreds of "modification made here" messages throughout the forum.

What do you mean by a one hour edit limit? Does that mean I only have one hour to decide if I really want my post to be read on your forum or not?

No, it means you have one hour in which to edit your post after you post it (if you don't like your grammar or how you stated something, for example). This was instituted (David, correct me if I'm wrong) because there was an issue with someone who retroactively editted his posts and complained that someone was misrepresenting him during a discussion.

Mods and Admins can edit posts indefinitely, though, so if you don't notice some grievous error, you can ask for a correction; we just get to decide whether your correction is allowable or not.

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