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Zer Netmouse
September 2nd, 2007
09:27 am

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Tobias summarizes a topic very well. :)

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From:the_leewit
Date:September 2nd, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. I'd wondered about this. Although I am kind of fuzzy (kick in Strattera, it's hard enough dealing with the migraines and depression without the ADD semiconsciousness) about how it happened. Did someone read an ill-considered how-to article on copyrightnazis.biz? Did someone accidentally page down twice and skip the "now go over your list and make sure it's not flawed" step? Did someone promise to write the code for finding copyright violators and get a pre-release of Halo 3, leading to someting being slapped together at the last minute and not be checked for having "left the sponge in"? Even if you don't think that the fellahin over at the SFWA are terribly smart, you'd think that there is at least a vestige of competence and high IQ's there.)

Btw, the way copyright has been explained to me, it is my understanding that, yes, technically, it is a violation of copyright to mention a thing's title unless you are reviewing it (including "Yes, we have Passion's Reckless Flame in stock, sir. Would you like me to set it aside for you under an assumed name?"), quote it in your sig line, or have its cover in the background when you are posing for a photograph that you are showing publicly. This suggests to me that either we need less repellent 'splainers, because the way the law is being explained, stupid people like me can't understand them and think the above is the case, or laws that are reasonable. Has John done an article on the same?
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From:elaine_brennan
Date:September 2nd, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
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I think the explanation you got is more than a bit flawed.

The premise that "it is a violation of copyright to mention a thing's title unless you are reviewing it" is incorrect. At the very least, please go read up on the concept of "fair use".
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From:the_leewit
Date:September 2nd, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC)
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The explanation I got said that "fair use" is so dicey a proposition that it's probably best to avoid it, and as understood by 90% of anyone who would try to do so to a lay person, one should treat it as a bullshit wikiconcept, much like "unauthorized satire of a trademarked product/ logo is okay," which it most certainly is NOT or "if you don't make money off using infringed copyrights or if you credit it, it's okay." Which is also not okay, in my understanding. I mean, I read in an AP wire story that up until a few years ago, you were in violation of the law if you sang "Happy Birthday," without paying royalties to the authors of the song... who, in this country, is without sin, in this case? And if the Associated Press is not a trusted (if not unimpeachable) source, as long as one follows its retractions and keep aware of its politics, whom should you accept information at face value from?

Sigh. Perhaps I am alone in thinking that it's hard to know whom to trust when explaining hot button legal issues to idjits like me... but I wonder if this is the case.
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From:ckd
Date:September 2nd, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
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You can sing "Happy Birthday", but not publicly perform it; that's a fairly major distinction. (This is why some restaurants have their own birthday songs, incidentally.)

You could also hum it, since the music was originally published as "Good Morning to All" in 1893 and is therefore out of copyright.
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From:elaine_brennan
Date:September 3rd, 2007 05:14 am (UTC)
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I suggest you go take a look at Bound by Law?, which is a comic book explaining many concepts of copyright and fair use for a filmmaker. Many of the concepts can be generalized quite easily. It's produced by the Duke University Center for the Study of the Public Domain and was written by lawyers.

As for "Happy Birthday", I believe (IANAL) that the circumstances under which royalties would be due include any commercial usage, performances in a public place, etc., but does not include singing the song at a birthday party at home.
From:tlatoani
Date:September 4th, 2007 02:40 pm (UTC)
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the way copyright has been explained to me, it is my understanding that, yes, technically, it is a violation of copyright to mention a thing's title unless you are reviewing it (including "Yes, we have Passion's Reckless Flame in stock, sir. Would you like me to set it aside for you under an assumed name?"), quote it in your sig line, or have its cover in the background when you are posing for a photograph that you are showing publicly. This suggests to me that either we need less repellent 'splainers, because the way the law is being explained, stupid people like me can't understand them and think the above is the case, or laws that are reasonable.

Forgive the bluntness, but whoever explained it to you was either deeply ignorant or deliberately lying. Even if you're risk-averse about fair use, mentioning a title cannot -- ever -- be a violation of copyright. The other examples you give are also nuts, but not quite as moronic as the title claim. Wow.
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From:the_leewit
Date:September 4th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
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I certainly think you've got my point about feeling like I want to have a source I can trust explain things to me--- preferably with original language next to it, so I can see where it comes from and draw my own conclusions (I am a bit of an original-source snob). Yes, Anne and Elaine are correct: I should have done my own research before whinging, but it's been an extraordinarily busy weekend, and a fairly rigorous one academically.

As for blunt, I appreciate it. "I am but an egg."
From:tlatoani
Date:September 4th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
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Reviewing original sources on legal topics can take a lot of work, because you need to not only look at the statute itself (which is pretty easy) but at any court decisions which are relevant to your question and which the courts hearing it would be obligated to follow. I can point you to some web references, or I'm happy to talk about it the next time you're in Ann Arbor and we're in the same place. Some explanations are simple, others aren't. For example, here are the brief explanations of why the person who explained copyright to you is a fool:

* "it is a violation of copyright to mention a thing's title unless you are reviewing it" -- wrong, because the title of a work is not actually protected by copyright. (It could be protected by trademark, but unless it's something like _Mickey Mouse goes to Daffy Duck's House_, that is extremely unusual, and even then it would not be a trademark violation to mention its name either.) Holding this belief is not consistent with being capable of giving advice on intellectual property law.

* "quote it in your sig line" -- wrong, because (1) the use is _de minimis_, meaning too trivial for the law to recognize as an infringement, and (2) the damages the copyright holder could claim would be too small for them to get into federal court anyway, even if they could find a lawyer desperate enough to take the case. Holding this belief doesn't make someone an idiot, but it does suggest that one's paranoia has overcome one's common sense.

* "have its cover in the background when you are posing for a photograph that you are showing publicly" -- It is *just vaguely possible* that a really aggressive rights-holder could decide to test the limits of this if the cover image is shown clearly and you are using the photo in a high-profile commercial context. People have been sued over showing copyrighted images in the background of TV shows before, for example. This belief isn't exactly irrational, but it shouldn't be stated so broadly that people think that they can't pose in front of bookshelves or something.

There's a good page with a number of references here:

http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter9/9-b.html
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