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Re: CLUEBAT: copyrights, infringement, violations, and legality

On Wed, Jan 29, 2003 at 08:16:29AM -0800, Craig Dickson wrote:
> Paul Hampson wrote:
> > On Tue, Jan 28, 2003 at 11:16:24PM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> > > [Followup to -legal.]
> > > 
> > > Okay, I'm going to a pull an RMS and plead for a change in our
> > > collective use of certain terms.
> > > 
> > > * Under U.S. law and the laws of most countries I'm familiar with,
> > >   copyright IS NOT A NATURAL RIGHT.

Copyright Act 1968 Section 31:
31 Nature of copyright in original works 
(1) For the purposes of this Act, unless the contrary intention appears,
copyright, in relation to a work, is the exclusive right...

So under Australian Law,  Copyright _is_ a right.

Title 17 of the United States Codes, Chapter 1, Section 106:
106. Exclusive rights in copyrighted works
Subject to sections 107 through 121, the owner of copyright under this
title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the

In US law, Copyright merely grants rights... Is this significantly

> > Is this comparable to "the right to bear arms"?
> Legally speaking, I suppose so. The "right to bear arms" is guaranteed by
> the US Constitution (not that has much effect these days).

BTW, that 'Milita' rider on the clause seems to make it much more ambiguous
than I would otherwise expect.

Certainly in Australia, where Copyright exists, it automatically vests.
Again, similar to the 'right to bear arms', I would think.

> > Copyright is the right to make copies. That's the morphology of the
> > word... The logical leap comes in that it is an exclusive right.
> Then ignore the word (which is misleading; it's just a word) and examine
> its definition and history in law.

Why? Are you saying it's always been a misnomer? Or that it's changed
significantly since whenever the word was introduced?

> > > Now, then, do you think Euclid held a copyright in the _Elements_?
> > Bad example. The elements are not an expression of an idea. They are the
> > matter themselves... Of course, the US Patent Office would probably have
> > granted him a patent on them...
> Euclid's 'Elements' is no simply a catalog.

OK, I completely did not understand that 'Elements' was a published book, as
explained elsewhere. I was thinking in terms of chemistry. My knowledge of
history is only slightly exceeded by my knowledge of Esperanto. :-) I
seriously thought you meant that Euclid had a copyright in the idea of
"Hydrogen Helium Lithium Berillyium" having earlier that night been
trying to explain Nuclear Fusion from first principles, when I'm not
that sure of it myself.

Anyway, the point that the _ideas_ are not copyrighted still stands. I
am free to read 'Elements' and apply the concepts myself. I could even
write a book about the concepts. Mind you, that's somewhat
orthogonal(sp?) to this discussion.

> > > Did the apostles of Jesus hold a copyright in the gospels?
> > The Evangelists? Of course. If I write a book, isn't it mine to control
> > who reads it?

> No. If you believe that, then you have no grasp of copyright whatsoever.
> Copyright controls the making of copies, not the distribution of copies
> that were lawfully made.

Sorry, let me rephrase that so it makes sense, and is actually correct...

If I write a book, isn't it mine to control whether it is read? And I
certainly have the right to control who is making copies. Through this,
I can limit the making of copies to entities who will distribute them in
the manner I see fit, or any other clauses I choose to include in the

> > >  If so, when did these
> > > copyrights expire, or have they?  If they haven't, who controls them
> > Of course they should. Once the author (or authors) are dead, then time
> > should run out. Copyright isn't an asset to be bought and sold, it's a
> > right.
> Now you're really showing how little you understand the subject. Copyright
> can indeed be bought and sold; in fact, this is how freelance writers make
> their living. When you sell an article to a publication, you are selling
> the copyright.

Copyright can be assigned, in exchange for money or not. That changes
who has the right. In _that_ respect, it can be bought and sold. I guess
I should have said it isn't a "perpetual asset, to be bought and sold
for all eternity". Besdies, I personally feel that the idea of assigning
copyright to someone else is a poor idea, anyway. It should be vested in
the right person in the first place, the person who expressed the idea.

Copyright is to protect the interests of the author. Once the author's
dead, what interests can he have?

You can sub-let parts of Copyright, ie to a publisher, through a license to
make copies. That doesn't mean the publisher can prevent you making
copies, unless you've licensed exclusive access to that right to the
publisher (which is presumabley the common case). And it doesn't
change who has the copyright. The publisher has only those rights you
assign that entity in contract, and the responsibilities therein.

[And someone else pointed out]
> But if you publish it, you have no right to control who reads it.

Why not? People publish books all the time, sold 'on the condition it
is not offered for sale etc outside of countries X,Y and Z'. This may
be mainly true of academic textbooks, and it doesn't prevent people from
carrying them personally across national borders, but that's not an
issue of rights, it's an issue of enforcement.

And then there's classification by age. Books generally don't get it,
but for movies and video games... Of course, then there's more
legislation there to ensure such things, and it gets all messy and
complicated. (Comparison: It is not illegal to smoke, but it is illegal
for persons under 18 to be supplied with tobacco.)

Of course, I could say "You may copy this book only if you will it
exclusively to eskimos" and you would then only be able to sell it
to eskimos. Doctrine of First Sale (Is that right?) says the Eskimos
may sell it to whoever they like, unless I included a rider to the
effect that sales of copies may only be made on the condition that these
clauses are part of the contract of sale (Subject to the local copyright
laws) I don't actually know if Doctrine of First Sale is a US-only
thing, or a commonly accepted thing. Or even if it's legislation or

> > If I write my life's work, the book that will make me rich and famous,
> > and someone takes a photocopy, puts his name on it and sells it as his
> > work,
> That is not merely a copyright issue, but also a matter of proper
> attribution. Your financial rewards may be reduced by copying, but
> your literary reputation is not, unless your name is removed. So let's
> not muddle the issue; attribution is separate from copyright.

OK, so drop the 'famous' from it, and the related 'puts his name on it'.

> > is that as bad as if someone burns your house down while you're
> > not there... After all, a house and contents is just stuff. A book is
> > concentrated effort and achievement. (Extreme, I know. The point I'm
> > making is still valid, I feel.)

> No, it isn't. You don't own a house, do you? I do. I've put a LOT of
> concentrated, creative effort into mine, even though I didn't build it
> myself.

As I said, I was making an extreme example. I don't seriously believe
that a house burning down is not as bad as illegally copying someone's
book. However, if the contents of my dorm room was burnt to the ground,
my sorriest loss would be the stuff on my computers that I have produced
myself and hold copyright in. Everything else in the room is (give or
take) replaceable in functionality, if not in form. I'm not saying I
wouldn't miss all my stuff, but I know what's important.

This could be worse... No-one's suggested that copyright infringement
is 'theft' after all. :-)

Paul "TBBle" Hampson, MCSE
5th year CompSci/Asian Studies student, ANU
The Boss, Bubblesworth Pty Ltd (ABN: 51 095 284 361)

Of course Pacman didn't influence us as kids. If it did,
we'd be running around in darkened rooms, popping pills and
listening to repetitive music.

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