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Old 06-14-2018, 09:02 PM
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drad dog drad dog is offline
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If something is on the "net" is it "copyrighted" ?

If I put a file of information on the net, is it covered?
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Old 06-14-2018, 09:11 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Current copyright law states that as soon as a text or image is placed into tangible form it is automatically copyrighted from the moment of creation.

A few exceptions exist. Mere facts or short phrases are not copyrightable. Your file of "information" has to have some individual contribution, even if it's just original language. However, that's a very low bar. Your OP was copyright in your name as soon as you posted it. And so is my response.

The amount of protection offered by copyright per se is very low, which is why registering the copyright is always suggested. To do that, visit copyright.gov for info.
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Old 06-15-2018, 08:22 AM
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In practice, there are only three ways you're going to find information that isn't copyrighted, and one is legally debatable. First, if it's really old (nearly a century now), it's out of copyright. Second, if it's a product of the federal government, it was never copyrighted. Third, if the copyright owner voluntarily relinquished copyright and deliberately released it into the public domain (which is emphatically not the same thing as putting it up on a website), then it might be out of copyright. There's some legal dispute over whether this last one is actually possible, which is why folks inclined to do this generally prefer a "copyleft" scheme like the Creative Commons license: There, the owner of the copyright retains ownership, but agrees pre-emptively to license it to almost everyone, under some expansive set of conditions (such as "You're allowed to use this freely as long as you give me credit and don't try to claim ownership").
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Old 06-15-2018, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Third, if the copyright owner voluntarily relinquished copyright and deliberately released it into the public domain (which is emphatically not the same thing as putting it up on a website), then it might be out of copyright. There's some legal dispute over whether this last one is actually possible, which is why folks inclined to do this generally prefer a "copyleft" scheme like the Creative Commons license: There, the owner of the copyright retains ownership, but agrees pre-emptively to license it to almost everyone, under some expansive set of conditions (such as "You're allowed to use this freely as long as you give me credit and don't try to claim ownership").
That's not an example of copyleft (and there is no such thing as "the" Creative Commons licence). Copyleft refers to a particular kind of licence that not only grants the licensee particular rights, but (and this is the crucial bit) also stipulates that the licensee may redistribute modified copies of the work as long as he or she grants the same rights with respect to the modified portions. That is, copyleft enforces reciprocity. Your example licence isn't copyleft because it imposes no such condition on the use of the work.

People don't release stuff under copyleft licences because they are uncertain about the legality of releasing it into the public domain. They do so because they want to share their work and ensure that everyone benefits in the same way from published modifications to it. People who release stuff under free but non-copyleft licences, or into the public domain, want to share their work but don't care whether or not everyone benefits from published modifications. If these people want to dedicate their work into the public domain but aren't sure if this is legally possible, then they will use a very permissive (but non-copyleft) free licence, such as CC0.

Last edited by psychonaut; 06-15-2018 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:24 AM
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Ah, I wasn't aware that the definition of "copyleft" was that refined and specific. I had thought that it just referred to all permissive blanket licenses.

I suspect, though, that most people using one of the Creative Commons licenses don't think too much about the distinctions between them, and just grab the first one they find from Google.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:40 AM
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As mentioned, bare lists of facts and figures don't qualify for copyright protection. There has to be some amount of originality, which can be quite a hurdle for recipe books and do-it-yourself manuals.

Recently, Taylor Swift was sued for using the lyrics the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, which she evidently cribbed from the song Playas Gon' Play by 3LW. But the judge ruled that the phrase didn't have the modicum of creativity required to qualify for copyright protection.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
First, if it's really old (nearly a century now), it's out of copyright.
Here's a chart that can help navigate what is and what isn't public domain.

Last edited by GreysonCarlisle; 06-15-2018 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:55 AM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
A few exceptions exist. Mere facts or short phrases are not copyrightable. Your file of "information" has to have some individual contribution, even if it's just original language. However, that's a very low bar. Your OP was copyright in your name as soon as you posted it.
Is the OP a 'short phrase' and therefore not copyrightable?
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Old 06-15-2018, 12:56 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Is the OP a 'short phrase' and therefore not copyrightable?
Copyright statutes generally aren't specific about how long something needs to be before it's copyrightable; this is left to the interpretation of the judiciary. In the USA, it's unlikely that drad dog would be able to successfully assert copyright over his OP. But as I discuss in another thread here, under a proposed EU directive, a sentence that short might be copyrightable in certain circumstances. (Specifically, if the SDMB, as a website run by the Chicago Reader, were considered a news site, and some third party quoted the OP when hyperlinking to it.)
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Old 06-15-2018, 01:01 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Is the OP a 'short phrase' and therefore not copyrightable?
I said it wasn't a short phrase. If someone were to respond to a post with "This" and nothing more, it's probably not copyrightable.

The point is that a short phrase tends not to be original. All those posts with Monty Python references are not copyrightable because they're aren't original. Paraphrases or parodies of them, just as short, probably would be. No listing of what short phrases aren't copyrightable exists, of course. Virtually no such cases make it to court, either.

However, here's a good article that discusses the legal nuances.
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Old 06-15-2018, 01:06 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
Copyright statutes generally aren't specific about how long something needs to be before it's copyrightable; this is left to the interpretation of the judiciary. In the USA, it's unlikely that drad dog would be able to successfully assert copyright over his OP. But as I discuss in another thread here, under a proposed EU directive, a sentence that short might be copyrightable in certain circumstances. (Specifically, if the SDMB, as a website run by the Chicago Reader, were considered a news site, and some third party quoted the OP when hyperlinking to it.)
Why wouldn't the OP be copyrightable? It's certainly original expression.

And could we keep the discussion of legal issues to U.S. law if that is the question in the OP? It's hard enough to give people advice on that without dragging in potential nitpicks about outside law.
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Old 06-15-2018, 01:30 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Why wouldn't the OP be copyrightable? It's certainly original expression.
For the same reason GreysonCarlisle gave for his example. A single short sentence might not pass the bar of creativity, at least according to some legal practitioners. (As a linguist I had to look into this matter recently when deciding whether or how to release a data set of one-liner jokes I had compiled. There is disagreement over whether or not a one-liner is creative enough to be copyrightable; one legal opinion I read described them as an edge case.)
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And could we keep the discussion of legal issues to U.S. law if that is the question in the OP? It's hard enough to give people advice on that without dragging in potential nitpicks about outside law.
The OP's question has already been definitively answered for the general case (by you, no less), and he doesn't say one way or another what jurisdiction he's talking about. I think a discussion of exceptions and edge cases brings value to what would otherwise be a dead thread.

ETA: If the OP disagrees I'll gladly stop.

Last edited by psychonaut; 06-15-2018 at 01:33 PM.
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Old 06-15-2018, 01:43 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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I think a discussion of exceptions and edge cases brings value to what would otherwise be a dead thread.
OK. I strongly disagree, though. My personal feeling is that irrelevant nitpicks just confuse everybody. They should be discussed somewhere other than GQ.

I'll also leave it to the OP if he comes back.
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Old 06-15-2018, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
I said it wasn't a short phrase. If someone were to respond to a post with "This" and nothing more, it's probably not copyrightable.

The point is that a short phrase tends not to be original. All those posts with Monty Python references are not copyrightable because they're aren't original. Paraphrases or parodies of them, just as short, probably would be. No listing of what short phrases aren't copyrightable exists, of course. Virtually no such cases make it to court, either.

However, here's a good article that discusses the legal nuances.
My hovercraft is full of nuances.
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Old 06-15-2018, 02:51 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Just an anecdote, but it relates to the "short phrase" concept.

I was involved in a minor copyright dispute in the 1970's. A songwriter wrote a song that was mostly instrumental, but in the last chorus, a gospel-type choir sang over and over, "Feelin' the spirit...feelin' the spirit..."

It was filed with the US copyright office as "Words and music by _____". the examiner kicked it back with the comment, "Insufficient lyrics to credit the songwriter with 'words by'."

I suspect this was at the examiner's discretion. The music publisher didn't argue, just refiled it without any lyric credit. Perhaps another examiner would have OKed it.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:40 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Ah, I wasn't aware that the definition of "copyleft" was that refined and specific. I had thought that it just referred to all permissive blanket licenses.

I suspect, though, that most people using one of the Creative Commons licenses don't think too much about the distinctions between them, and just grab the first one they find from Google.
I think the intention with the pun in the name was "I want to the-opposite-of-copyright my work, so that it is guaranteed permanently free even if modified".
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:42 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
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Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
Just an anecdote, but it relates to the "short phrase" concept.

I was involved in a minor copyright dispute in the 1970's. A songwriter wrote a song that was mostly instrumental, but in the last chorus, a gospel-type choir sang over and over, "Feelin' the spirit...feelin' the spirit..."

It was filed with the US copyright office as "Words and music by _____". the examiner kicked it back with the comment, "Insufficient lyrics to credit the songwriter with 'words by'."

I suspect this was at the examiner's discretion. The music publisher didn't argue, just refiled it without any lyric credit. Perhaps another examiner would have OKed it.
You have to admit, three words is not a long poem.
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