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

Paul Hampson wrote:

> Copyright Act 1968 Section 31:
> http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ca1968133/s31.html

I'm not at all sure that copyright works the same in all countries. I
suppose the related international conventions impose a fair degree of
uniformity, but it may not be perfect. Anything I say about copyright
law is based on my understanding of copyright law in the USA.

> > > 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.

Not if you understand what a 'militia' is. The common definition of the
word (in the USA, at least) is that the 'militia' is the entire set of
able-bodied adult male citizens who are _not_ part of the regular
military/paramilitary forces of the nation. (Presumably this definition
is based on a traditional view that women do not engage in combat.) So
I, as an able-bodied adult male citizen, am legally part of the
'militia' and so have the 'right to keep and bear arms'. In theory, at
least. In practice, the Supreme Court doesn't seem too interested in the
second amendment. Since things have changed a lot in the last 200 years,
I don't really have a strong opinion on whether or not the second
amendment is still a good idea, though in the interest of the rule of
law, I think if we as a nation feel that there is no longer a need for
the people to 'keep and bear arms', then we should repeal the amendment
rather than just pretend it isn't there.

> > > 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?

I'm saying that you seem to be confused by the word. You're analyzing
its etymology and deriving its meaning and properties based on that.
This is the wrong way to analyze a legal term. Instead, you should be
looking at how it actually works in law, and the history of that law.
Given the same legislation, you could call it "football" and it would
still behave the same: by printing and selling copies of my story, you
are infringing on my football, and I can sue you and reasonably expect
to win damages and an order that you cease distributing my story. The
name 'copyright' is not important.

> 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?

Only if you retain possession of the only copies. If you let someone
else take it out of your sight to read it, you can't prevent them from
letting someone else read it too. At least not with copyright law; you
could make them sign a non-disclosure agreement, but that's a completely
separate issue.

> > > >  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".

It isn't a "perpetual asset" at all, since it has a time limit. Of
course, with a few more Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Acts, we may
start to forget about that.

> 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.

Then you are in disagreement with copyright law. As far as I know,
copyright law has always allowed for the sale of copyright.

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

No, copyright is to protect the interests of the copyright holder.
Originally that is the author, but we've already established that it can
be sold. Also, the author's estate has an interest in any copyrights
that the author held at the time of his death. It seems a little unfair
that if an author dies just as his latest book is about to hit the
best-seller lists, that his new book should instantly jump into the
public domain, depriving his estate of any proceeds.

> 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).

That is indeed a common case. Sometimes an author sells only first
publication rights, or magazine rights, but quite often the entire
copyright is sold, and the author has to get permission from the
publisher to republish the work elsewhere (e.g., to publish a short
story in an anthology after selling it to a magazine).

> And it doesn't change who has the copyright.

Sometimes it does. It depends whether you sell "all rights" or merely a
subset of rights, such as first publication rights.

> [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'.

That's the publisher trying to cover his ass. If a publisher has only
North American rights, for example, he would want to include a
disclaimer that the book can only be sold in the USA and Canada. It
has nothing at all to do with copyright.

> 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.

No, that's a matter of contractual enforcement, if anything. It isn't a
matter of copyright, because transporting a book from one place to
another is not making a copy of it. In any case, I highly doubt that a
"This book is sold on the condition that..." statement is enforceable at
all unless the bookseller gets his customers to read and agree to it
before paying for each book. I'm pretty sure it just functions as a

> 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.)

This also has nothing to do with copyright.

> 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.

You live in a dorm? Well, of course you don't care about the building
itself; it's not yours. Compare that to my house, which (modulo the
mortgage) I do own, and where I've redone the roof, replaced all the
windows, had it painted inside and out to my liking, replaced carpets
and refinished hardwood floors, redone the landscaping, replaced
built-in lighting fixtures... there's a lot of creative thought that
goes into doing all this, making choices among various alternatives,
making the place into my home, not just some anonymous house that I and
my family happen to be living in at the moment. This is a big deal. If
it all burned down, I wouldn't just be upset about the loss of all my
books and records, nor would the insurance money make everything okay.


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