Myth 1. If it doesn't have a Copyright notice, it's not Copyrighted.
False: This was true in the past, but today almost all major nations follow the Berne Copyright convention. For example, in the USA, almost everything created privately after April 1, 1989 is Copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. The default you should assume for other people's works is that they are Copyrighted and may not be copied unless you *know* otherwise. There are some old works that lost protection without notice, but frankly you should not risk it unless you know for sure.
It is true that a notice strengthens the protection, by warning people, and by allowing one to get more and different damages, but it is not necessary. If it looks Copyrighted, you should assume it is. This applies to pictures, too. You may not scan pictures from magazines and post them to the net, and if you come upon something unknown, you shouldn't post that either.
The correct form for a notice is:
Myth 2. If I don't charge for it, it's not a violation.
False. Whether you charge can affect the damages awarded in court,
but that's essentially the only difference. It's still a violation
if you give it away -- and there can still be heavy damages if you
hurt the commercial value of the property.
Myth 3. If it's posted to Usenet it's in the public domain.
False. Nothing is in the public domain anymore unless the owner explicitly puts it in the public domain(*). Explicitly, as in you have a note from the author/owner saying, "I grant this to the public domain." Those exact words or words very much like them.
Some argue that posting to Usenet implicitly grants permission to everybody to copy the posting within fairly wide bounds, and others feel that Usenet is an automatic store and forward network where all the thousands of copies made are done at the command (rather than the consent) of the poster. This is a matter of some debate, but even if the former is true (and in this writer's opinion we should all pray it isn't true) it simply would suggest posters are implicitly granting permissions "for the sort of copying one might expect when one posts to Usenet" and in no case is this a placement of material into the public domain. Furthermore it is very difficult for an implicit licence to supersede an explicitly stated licence that the copier was aware of.
Note that all this assumes the poster had the right to post the item in the first place. If the poster didn't, then all the copies are pirate, and no implied licence or theoretical reduction of the Copyright can take place.
(*) Copyrights can expire after a long time, putting someting into the public domain, and there are some fine points on this issue regarder older Copyright law versions. However, none of this applies to an original article posted to USENET.
Note that granting something to the public domain is a complete abandonment
of all rights. You can't make something "PD for non-commercial
use." If your work is PD, other people can even modify one byte
and put their name on it.
Myth 4. My posting was just fair use!
Exceptions. See other notes on fair use for a detailed answer, but
bear the following in mind:
It's a risky defence to attempt.
Myth 5. If you don't defend your Copyright you lose it.
False. Copyright is effectively never lost these days, unless explicitly
given away. You may be thinking of trade marks, which can be weakened
or lost if not defended.
Myth 6. Somebody has that name Copyrighted!
False. You can't "Copyright a name," or anything short like that. Titles usually don't qualify -- but I doubt you may write a song entitled "Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey." (J.Lennon/P.McCartney)
You can't Copyright words, but you can trademark them, generally by using them to refer to your brand of a generic type of product or service. Like an "Apple" computer. Apple Computer "owns" that word applied to computers, even though it is also an ordinary word. Apple Records owns it when applied to music. Neither owns the word on its own, only in context, and owning a mark doesn't mean complete control -- see a more detailed treatise on this law for details.
You can't use somebody else's trademark in a way that would unfairly
hurt the value of the mark, or in a way that might make people confuse
you with the real owner of the mark, or which might allow you to profit
from the mark's good name. For example, if I were giving advice on
music videos, I would be very wary of trying to label my works with
a name like "mtv." :-)
Myth 7. They can't get me, defendants in court have powerful rights!
False. Copyright law is mostly civil law. If you violate Copyright you would usually get sued, not charged with a crime. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a principle of criminal law, as is "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." Sorry, but in Copyright suits, these don't apply the same way or at all.
It's mostly which side and set of evidence the judge or jury accepts
or believes more, though the rules vary based on the type of infringement.
In civil cases you can even be made to testify against your own interests.
Myth 8. Oh, so Copyright violation isn't a crime or anything?
False. Actually, recently in the USA commercial Copyright violation involving more than 10 copies and value over $2500 was made a felony. So watch out. (At least you get the protections of criminal law.) On the other hand, don't think you're going to get people thrown in jail for posting your E-mail. The courts have much better things to do than that. This is a fairly new, untested statute.
Myth 9. It doesn't hurt anybody -- in fact it's free advertising.
False. It's up to the owner to decide if they want the free ads or not. If they want them, they will be sure to contact you.
Don't rationalize whether it hurts the owner or not, *ask* them.
Usually that's not too hard to do. Time past, ClariNet published the
very funny Dave Barry column to a large and appreciative Usenet audience
for a fee, but some person didn't ask, and forwarded it to a mailing
list, got caught, and the newspaper chain that employs Dave Barry
pulled the column from the net, pissing off everybody who enjoyed
it. Even if you can't think of how the author or owner gets hurt,
think about the fact that piracy on the net hurts everybody who wants
a chance to use this wonderful new technology to do more than read
other people's flamewars.
Myth 10. They e-mailed me a copy, so I can post it.
False. To have a copy is not to have the Copyright. All the E-mail
you write is Copyrighted. However, E-mail is not, unless previously
agreed, secret. So you can certainly *report* on what E-mail you are
sent, and reveal what it says. You can even quote parts of it to demonstrate.
Frankly, somebody who sues over an ordinary message might well get
no damages, because the message has no commercial value, but if you
want to stay strictly in the law, you should ask first. On the other
hand, don't go nuts if somebody posts your E-mail. If it was an ordinary
non-secret personal letter of minimal commercial value with no Copyright
notice (like 99.9% of all E-mail), you probably won't get any damages
if you sue them.
Permission is granted to freely copy this document in electronic form, or to print for personal use. If you had not seen a notice like this on the document, you would have to assume you did not have permission to copy it.
This document is still protected by you-know- what even though it has no Copyright notice. It should be noted that the author, as publisher of an electronic newspaper on the net, makes his living by publishing Copyrighted material in electronic form and has the associated biases. However, DO NOT E-MAIL HIM FOR LEGAL ADVICE; for that use other resources or consult a lawyer. Also note that while most of these principles are universal in Berne Copyright signatory nations, some are derived from Canadian and U.S. law. This document is provided to clear up some common misconceptions about intellectual property law that are often seen on the net. It is not intended to be a complete treatise on all the nuances of the subject.