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Databases--the next copyright battle? [Bill to outlaw fair use of factual information]
Reuters ^ | September 5, 2003

Posted on 09/06/2003 10:45:31 AM PDT by HAL9000

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are circulating a proposed bill that would prevent wholesale copying of school guides, news archives and other databases that do not enjoy copyright protection.

The proposed bill would provide a legal umbrella for publishers of factual information such as courtroom decisions and professional directories. The measures would be similar to the copyright laws that protect music, novels and other creative works.

The bill has not yet been introduced, but the Judiciary Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a joint hearing on the bill in the coming weeks, a Commerce Committee spokesman said.

Backers of the measure say it would allow database providers to protect themselves against those who simply cut and paste databases to resell them or to make them available for free online.

Violators could be shut down and forced to pay triple the damages incurred.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and consumer advocates said they plan to write letters of protest soon, arguing that the bill could dramatically limit the public's access to information. Database providers can protect themselves through terms-of-service agreements with their customers, said Joe Rubin, director of congressional and public affairs at the chamber.

"We think this is already dealt with under license and contract law, and there's no reason to extend beyond that," Rubin said.

Sometimes user agreements do not provide enough protection, said Keith Kupferschmid, a policy expert with the Software and Information Industry Association, which supports the bill.

In one instance, a Minnesota magazine publisher had no legal recourse when its entire directory of local schools was copied and redistributed. In other cases, operators of pornographic Web sites have copied real estate listings and lawyers' directories to lure in unwitting visitors, he said.

The law could help those who make information available for free online, Kupferschmid said. Reuters America, a unit of Reuters Group, is a member of the trade group.

"If database producers know they have some law to fall back on, when someone steals their database, they'll be much more willing to get that information out there for free," he said. "Without that law, there's really nothing to protect them."

Mike Godwin, senior technology counsel at the nonprofit group Public Knowledge, said the bill would likely make information less freely available.

"Information, when not copyrighted, is something that can be shared. Once you start putting fences around information...there's no freedom of inquiry," said Godwin.

"That doesn't make us smarter, it makes us dumber," he said.

© 2003 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; Technical
KEYWORDS: copyright; database

1 posted on 09/06/2003 10:45:31 AM PDT by HAL9000
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To: HAL9000
The proposed bill would provide a legal umbrella for publishers of factual information such as courtroom decisions

Court decisions as private property?

2 posted on 09/06/2003 10:52:03 AM PDT by Roscoe
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To: HAL9000
This is the most nutso, lawyer-driven legislation I've ever heard of.

Depending on how the law is written, it would be a goldmine for lawyers and a nightmare for any company, large or small, that using any kind of database.

"You stole my phone numbers database."
"No, I didn't. Prove it."
"Lawsuit, lawsuit."

Copyrighting factual data is a ridiculous concept.

I think I'll issue copyrights effective now, immediately--and this posting gives "published" notice to that effect:

I hereby copyright {these copyright notices are effective 2003} all the following factual data:

all latitudes and longitutes
all street names
all factual data regarding all states within the Unites States of America.
all factual data regarding astronomical terms, measures, and definitions
all factual data regarding nations of planet earth.....

[The concept of copyrighting databases hinges on moronism, a term I also copyright.]
3 posted on 09/06/2003 11:07:58 AM PDT by TomGuy
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To: Roscoe
Court decisions as private property?

No, but a compilation thereof may be.

4 posted on 09/06/2003 11:10:33 AM PDT by TopQuark
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To: TopQuark
I think there were decisions on this involving West Publishing. IIRC, the upshot is the text is not protected, but the headnotes, key number system, and West pagination is protected. Seems fair enough to me. Access to decisional law for free is fundamental to the rule of law.
5 posted on 09/06/2003 11:27:44 AM PDT by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
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To: TomGuy
>>"You stole my phone numbers database."
>>"No, I didn't. Prove it."
>>"Lawsuit, lawsuit."

Actually, if the database is "seeded" with identifier data, it is easy to prove.

I worked at a non-profit where we did this. We did it to help detect when a mailing list we loaned out for a one time use was being used more than one time or passed around to other organizations.

Fake addresses, fake names, etc. are often used for this purpose.

For example, assume your business address is 1 Mill brook Ln Ste 320, you could have a "seed" address like such:

XYZ (C) 2003 XYZ Non-profit
One Time use by ABC non Profit
1 Millbrook Ln ste 320
Wilton, CT 06203

Now since most data is just fed through computers, most likely this won't be noticed. The mail delivered to this address will arrive at your office, and you can tell when your list is being used.

Using such methods could provide a way of detecting the usage of copywrited databases.

>>Copyrighting factual data is a ridiculous concept.

Not at all. The real question is if the database/list itself is available publicly or not. For instance, if you search for contact information for child welfare agencies, you'll find many lists. That's considered a public domain list and can't be protected.

However, if you compile a list which has never been compiled before, then there is potential for copyright protection of the LIST even if the *data* is public. The individual data won't be protected, but rather the *list* itself will.


6 posted on 09/06/2003 11:36:13 AM PDT by 1stFreedom
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To: 1stFreedom
The real question is if the database/list itself is available publicly or not.

No. The key issue is originality and creatvity.

Basic information arranged alphabetically should not be entitled to copyright protection.

7 posted on 09/06/2003 11:49:00 AM PDT by HAL9000
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To: HAL9000
What is needed, IMHO, is a new classification of copyrights for non-original works. Such copyrights should be for a comparatively limitted term (e.g. 5 years), but would provide some incentive for people to compile factual information which would otherwise require too much time and effort.

I would apply a similar copyright, btw, to certain types of publication of public-domain materials. For example, if someone finds what is believed to be the only existing copy of a movie made in 1919, under today's copyright law there is a disincentive to allowing any unmodified copy of that film to see the light of day, since the person who has the film could release a modified version with a 95+ year copyright but--if the original got out--the person would have to compete in the marketplace against the free public-domain version. IMHO that's a serious defect (actually one of many) in copyright law that needs to be fixed.

8 posted on 09/06/2003 1:05:43 PM PDT by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: HAL9000
"We think this is already dealt with under license and contract law, and there's no reason to extend beyond that,"

The main reason they want copyright law: Contract law does not apply to third parties nor those who do not "sign" the contract. Copyright law provides for statutory damages, and also provides some international coverage via the Berne Convention.

Happy Birthday America!
9 posted on 09/06/2003 1:08:59 PM PDT by J. Byron
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To: HAL9000
Basic information arranged alphabetically should not be entitled to copyright protection.

In simple cases, that is certainly true. In complex cases, though, there should be some form of protection (though a 95-year copyright would be ridiculous as it is for just about everything else). After all, even when information is readily available, the act of compiling it in certain ways may represent a considerable investment in time and money; few people are apt to make such an investment if other people can immediately take it with the person who put in the work getting nothing.

As an example, it would probably be useful to have that portion of the Oxford English Dictionary published prior to 1922 available on CD-ROM. The text is all in the public-domain, but to my knowledge is not publicly available anywhere in machine-readable form. For someone to scan and proof the text from such an edition would be a large undertaking, but not beyond the realm of feasibility. On the other hand, in today's legal climate, there would be no way for a person to get any sort of proprietary protection for their efforts unless they published only a modified version of the original, for which they could then claim a 95-year copyright. To my mind, there's something wrong with this; the incentive for a work like that should be to produce a work that mirrors the original as closely as possible, and yet there are strong disincentives to doing so.

10 posted on 09/06/2003 1:15:01 PM PDT by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: supercat
What is needed, IMHO, is a new classification of copyrights for non-original works.

You would have to amend the Constitution to do it properly.

I would apply a similar copyright, btw, to certain types of publication of public-domain materials.

Same.

IMHO that's a serious defect (actually one of many) in copyright law that needs to be fixed.

It's a crazy idea.
11 posted on 09/06/2003 1:17:03 PM PDT by J. Byron
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To: J. Byron
It's a crazy idea.

Under existing copyright law, if I happen upon the only copy of a public-domain movie, I can release the film with a few arbitrary changes and claim a 95-year copyright. If the original ever "escapes", people would be able to freely copy the original without paying me a dime, but if the original never escapes people who want to see the film would have to pay me even if their only interest was seeing the parts of the movie which are--or should be--in the public domain.

Therefore, I would--if I didn't care about film history--have a financial incentive to ensure that nobody ever gets their hands on the original of the film. Even though the film's copyright expired decades ago, it would have a new copyright--registered to me--until at least the year 2098. This despite the fact that my only real contribution to the film was having the good fortune to acquire it.

To my mind, that is crazy. Copyright laws should provide incentives to publish materials which are in the public domain--not bury them. Unfortunately, today's copyright laws do just the opposite. Adding a short-term "restoration copyright" to the legal system and requiring that people who publish works primarily based on public-domain sources only be able to get a full copyright on their works if they make available their original sources under a restoration copyright would undo these perverse incentives.

BTW, allowing certain short-term protections for laboriously-derived works even when the works are not creatively-derived would be far less of a constitutional stretch than the retroactive copyright extensions the Supreme Court has already deemed acceptable.

12 posted on 09/06/2003 1:33:30 PM PDT by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: HAL9000
I think this could have serious implications for FR (if copyright law is expanded strongly, it would give more credence to lawsuits against this website).
13 posted on 09/06/2003 1:35:21 PM PDT by xm177e2 (Stalinists, Maoists, Ba'athists, Pacifists: Why are they always on the same side?)
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To: 1stFreedom; TomGuy
I worked at a non-profit where we did this. We did it to help detect when a mailing list we loaned out for a one time use was being used more than one time or passed around to other organizations.

Map companies do this too. As an example, practically every page of every Rand McNally atlas you've ever held in your hands contains some tiny little burg, side street or road that doesn't exist. If those fake sites end up on some other company's maps, GOTCHA!

They're pretty good at it, too ... I've never managed to come across a site or road on a map that I know does not and never did exist. They really know how to hide the fakes in ways that won't inconvenience legitimate users.

14 posted on 09/06/2003 1:38:20 PM PDT by Timesink
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To: HAL9000
The lawmakers decided decades ago against outlawing the trafficking of personal information. Today we have credit histories, house price/tax info, and even SS#, parents' maiden names, and birthdate information being sold and resold to advertisers and worse.

The junkmailers and telemarketers got what they wanted. We now pay for it with 27million cases of identity theft.

This proposed legislation would not appear to outlaw that.

Wake me when Congress is going to do something for the citizens. I could care less if someone is bitching that they paid for private information to compile a database and then someone else bought and resold it verbatim ("They even kept my entry field names, "waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa").

Outlaw the trafficking of such info to begin with. Force interested parties to log their presence at the court house if they want to look up your housing information. Force them to make repeated requests to the Driver's License board. There are legal routes to go to acquire this information. Allowing private interests to compile up and resell such databases should not have been tolerated.

The existance of such databases (without the outlawing of the sale of such information) means that even if future laws restrict public offices from providing private information, someone somewhere will already have it on file ready to sell (legally).

15 posted on 09/06/2003 1:42:34 PM PDT by weegee
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To: supercat
I would apply a similar copyright, btw, to certain types of publication of public-domain materials. For example, if someone finds what is believed to be the only existing copy of a movie made in 1919, under today's copyright law there is a disincentive to allowing any unmodified copy of that film to see the light of day, since the person who has the film could release a modified version with a 95+ year copyright but--if the original got out--the person would have to compete in the marketplace against the free public-domain version. IMHO that's a serious defect (actually one of many) in copyright law that needs to be fixed.

While I believe in letting works lapse into the public domain, I do not support bottom feeders waiting for someone else to spend to money to restore something. If you alter a work significantly (something like 30%) you are supposed to be able to apply for a new copyright of that work. This does not mean that you own all presentations of that work, but it does mean that others are not entitled to leach off of your copy. I would not support the 95+ year endlessly renewable copyrights for such works; they were borrowed works to begin with and 28 years should be more than enough to recoup expenses. If such a work truly is the most complete restoration of a work, then in 28 years it will likely still be the most complete restoration and should be accessible by all who wish to enjoy what was (and should remain) a public domain work.

The Mona Lisa is not copyrighted or trademarked but access to the Mona Lisa with a camera can be limited (since it hangs in a museum) and new photos of the work can be licensed by the owner. It doesn't mean that the owner can prohibit all representations of the work, just control access to the best source for repesentations (the work itself).

As copyright law stands, people do copyright restored versions (or solitary prints) of public domain books and movies. I am just against giving them the overly extended copyrights that were intended to last no longer than the life of the creator. Preservation is not creation (if it is, then the preservationist is reinterpreting the work; restoration should always be reversable).

16 posted on 09/06/2003 1:54:21 PM PDT by weegee
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To: HAL9000
So let me get this straight, they want to pass law the makes it illegal to copy anything the is NOT copyrighted.

This is just another excuse to kill the internet and take more of our freedoms away.

I always wondered what the oppisite extreme of book burning was. Now I know.

17 posted on 09/06/2003 2:03:22 PM PDT by Paul C. Jesup
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To: weegee
As copyright law stands, people do copyright restored versions (or solitary prints) of public domain books and movies. I am just against giving them the overly extended copyrights that were intended to last no longer than the life of the creator. Preservation is not creation (if it is, then the preservationist is reinterpreting the work; restoration should always be reversable).

The problem, beyond the fact that 95-year copyrights are obscene to begin with, is that there is a strong disincentive for someone who controls the original public domain version of a work to allow any public-domain copies ever to be made. IMHO there's something wrong with that. If people go through the effort of retrieving a public-domain work, they should not be required to botch it up with their own modifications in order to protect their efforts.

18 posted on 09/06/2003 2:04:50 PM PDT by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: supercat
The Constitution Article I Section 8. [Scope of Legislative Power] The Congress shall have power... "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;"

"Copyright protection subsists... in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression... from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." 17 USC §102(a)

"In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work." 17 USC §102(b)

"The copyright in a compilation or derivative work extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material. The copyright in such work is independent of, and does not affect or enlarge the scope, duration, ownership, or subsistence of, any copyright protection in the preexisting material." 17 USC § 103 (b)

If your revisions rise to the minimal requirements for new copyright and people prefer your edition to the original, then fine. But for you to say that merely because you own the only copy of the original, that you should get a renewal copyright on it IS CRAZY and contrary to the Constitution and U.S. code.
19 posted on 09/06/2003 2:19:58 PM PDT by J. Byron
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To: weegee
The Mona Lisa is not copyrighted or trademarked but access to the Mona Lisa with a camera can be limited (since it hangs in a museum) and new photos of the work can be licensed by the owner. It doesn't mean that the owner can prohibit all representations of the work, just control access to the best source for repesentations (the work itself).

BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY, LTD. v. COREL CORP., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191(S.D.N.Y. 1999)
Originality and Copyrightability

"Thus, the authors implicitly recognize that a change of medium alone is not sufficient to render the product original and copyrightable. Rather, a copy in a new medium is copyrightable only where, as often but not always is the case, the copier makes some identifiable original contribution."

http://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/36_FSupp2d_191.htm

"No one disputes that most photographs are copyrightable. In consequence, the issuance of a certificate of registration for a photograph proves nothing. And while the certificate is prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright, [FN56] including the originality of the work, the presumption is not irrebuttable. [FN57] Here, the facts pertinent to the issue of originality are undisputed. The Court has held as a matter of law, and reiterates, that plaintiff's works are not original under either British or United States law."

http://www.corbis.com/corporate/photographers/copyright_docs/bridge.htm
20 posted on 09/06/2003 2:32:32 PM PDT by J. Byron
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To: weegee
Anyone interested in public domain material, this is an excellent book:
The Public Domain: How to Find Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More
21 posted on 09/06/2003 2:37:58 PM PDT by J. Byron
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To: TopQuark
No, but a compilation thereof may be.

That's not copyright.

22 posted on 09/06/2003 3:04:17 PM PDT by Roscoe
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To: HAL9000
In my opinion, all intellectual property protections should be limited to 20 years from the date of granting the protection.

Trademarks should be protected for the life of the owner or operation of the business, plus 20 years.
23 posted on 09/06/2003 4:56:28 PM PDT by taxcontrol (People are entitled to their opinion - no matter how wrong it is.)
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To: J. Byron
If your revisions rise to the minimal requirements for new copyright and people prefer your edition to the original, then fine. But for you to say that merely because you own the only copy of the original, that you should get a renewal copyright on it IS CRAZY and contrary to the Constitution and U.S. code.

Ah, but if I have the only public-domain copies of a work, and the only copies I release contain my own additions, then as a practical matter it is very difficult for anyone else to safely regard any of the work as being in the public domain. For example, it may turn out that the 9,431st frame of my source copy of the film had a very bad burn mark so I had to digitally reconstruct it; if I did a good job with the reconstruction it should be nearly indistinguishable from the original source material, and yet depending upon what was going on in frame there may be parts of the reconstruction that are in fact my own original copyrighted creation (e.g. a person appears at an angle which is unique to that particular frame). Unless I go out of my way to make it easy, it will be difficult or impossible for anyone to extract the public domain parts of the work from my combined product,

24 posted on 09/06/2003 9:11:14 PM PDT by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: Bush2000
FYI...
25 posted on 09/06/2003 9:17:25 PM PDT by TomServo ("I worked at NASA back when we were next to Cost Cutters.")
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To: HAL9000
When will the copyright expansionists get the firing squad that they and all fascists so richly deserve for their crimes against America?
26 posted on 09/07/2003 6:51:55 AM PDT by CodeMonkey
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To: xm177e2
I think this could have serious implications for FR

Indeed, this is an issue that should cause many to reevaluate their affiliation with the Republcians. The republicans were the ones who established the "No Electronic Theft Act" which makes a small number of infringements a criminal activity even if no money was involved. Theoretically under the NETA if you post a lot of stories without permission, the FBI could arrest you and put you in prison on a felony charge. The Democrats, sadly enough, only got the balls to propose such draconian legislation once the Republicans proved that congress could get away with it.

27 posted on 09/07/2003 6:56:48 AM PDT by CodeMonkey
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To: supercat
Ah, but if I have the only public-domain copies of a work, and the only copies...

That would be rare. The Library of congress may be able to provide a copy of a work. Many universities and some recording studios host collections... not to mention auctions.

I release contain my own additions, then as a practical matter it is very difficult for anyone else to safely regard any of the work as being in the public domain.

Some original but unsubstantial alterations like spell-correcting or in the case of a song, cocktail variations obvious to any musician would not be upheld. It would be for a court to decide should you register the material and sue.

Why do you believe you should benefit using someone else's work? Yes effort is required to distribute PD works, but effort is not equal to originality or creativity. Donate your book or film to the library and create something of your own :-)
28 posted on 09/07/2003 8:41:20 AM PDT by J. Byron
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To: CodeMonkey
"Indeed, this is an issue that should cause many to reevaluate their affiliation with the Republcians."

No, the craziest copyright related legislation is DMCA:

DMCA anticircumvention
DMCA Subpoenas
Google and Church of Scientology Sites
DirecTV dragnet snares innocent techies
DMCA and security researchers
DVD-DeCSS Documents@Cryptome.org

Font embed: DMCA threats
BTW, some interesting information on fonts and what aspect is copyrighted:

The type industry was quick to react to the news. Brian Willson of Three Island Press (www.3ip.com) said to the ITFI "I'm thrilled with Judge Whyte's ruling. Sure, it only pertains to "font software programs" -- but the fact that the ruling confirms the "creativity in designing" these programs is, I hope, just a step away from acknowledging the creativity that's intrinsic in the font designs themselves." - http://www.allcompu.com/typejudg/judge.htm

"As the publishing industry well knows, font designs are not protected in the U.S. The 1976 Copyright Act specifically excluded "mere lettering" from its coverage, and an attempt to gain industrial-design protection for fonts failed in the late 1980s. In January 1990, Bitstream and Adobe did manage to convince the Registrar of Copyrights that PostScript fonts should be treated as computer programs. They demonstrated that despite the close similarity of letterforms, the PostScript program that created the lettering was different—in other words, that the font code could be a unique expression of a font-design idea. More recently, however, the Copyright Office has declined to register fonts created with Fontographer, apparently because the program automates too much of the creation process, such as hinting and kerning." - http://www.seyboldreports.com/SRDP/0dp9/D0912001.HTM

An informative slide-show on copyright
The Free Expression Policy Project
(interesting site but may offend some conservatives)
29 posted on 09/07/2003 10:23:09 AM PDT by J. Byron
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To: J. Byron
Ah, but if I have the only public-domain copies of a work, and the only copies...

That would be rare. The Library of congress may be able to provide a copy of a work. Many universities and some recording studios host collections... not to mention auctions.

True, but those sources are hardly a complete archive of all the public-domain material out there. There's a lot of material which is known to have existed but of which no copies are known to exist today; there is even more material which nobody knows ever existed.

I release contain my own additions, then as a practical matter it is very difficult for anyone else to safely regard any of the work as being in the public domain.

Some original but unsubstantial alterations like spell-correcting or in the case of a song, cocktail variations obvious to any musician would not be upheld. It would be for a court to decide should you register the material and sue.

Ah, but if I pocket the original and nobody else can find a copy, how can anyone know which material is mine and which isn't.

Why do you believe you should benefit using someone else's work? Yes effort is required to distribute PD works, but effort is not equal to originality or creativity. Donate your book or film to the library and create something of your own :-)

The effort required to restore a public-domain work which is in poor condition may be substantial. If it is not possible for someone performing such a restoration to make money from doing so, there will be little incentive for people to do so. And while I agree that the merely distribution of readily-available public-domain works is not as laudable an activity as the creation of new works, I would posit that in many cases the societal value of restoring a work long thought lost may be much greater than the value of producing an unexceptional original work.

To my mind, society should place a significant value on the preservation of the past, and one essential aspect of that involves rewarding people who help to do so. To my mind, allowing a short-term "restoration copyright" would help ensure that the best existing copy of material which enters the public domain does in fact become widely available in a public-domain form.

As a simple example, suppose someone discovers a piano roll in their attic performed by a great pianist in 1916. Would it be better for that person to publish an exact MIDI transcription of the piano roll as the markings exist on paper, or would it be better for them to only publish their own embellished version and copyright it themselves? Under today's legal climate, the latter is a far more likely course of action; it's further complicated by the Berne Convention's ridiculous total abolishment of the 'notice' requirement for copyrights.

I would posit that allowing for a short-term "restoration copyright" but requiring that people who produce enhanced restorations of works make the original public domain sources available under a restoration copyright as a pre-condition to getting a full copyright for themselves, would have a very useful effect at increasing the amount of material which usefully enters the public domain in best-available copies and formats..

30 posted on 09/07/2003 11:09:58 AM PDT by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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