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False Copyright Claims 268

Posted by kdawson
from the one-sided-rights dept.
FreetoCopy writes "Teenagers downloading music may not be the worst copyright offenders. See this item (available for download in PDF file with free registration) about the growing problem of copyfraud — in which publishers, archives, and distributors make false claims of copyright to shut down free expression. From the paper: 'Copyfraud is everywhere. False copyright notices appear on modern reprints of Shakespeare's plays, Beethoven's piano scores, greeting card versions of Monet's Water Lilies, and even the US Constitution. Archives claim blanket copyright in everything in their collections. Vendors of microfilmed versions of historical newspapers assert copyright ownership. These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner's permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use...'"
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False Copyright Claims

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  • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

    by niceone (992278) * on Saturday July 14, 2007 @02:35PM (#19860719) Journal
    That summary is copyright (c) Me 2007 - take it down now, or I'm sending the lawyers round!
  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @02:49PM (#19860821) Homepage
    As far as I can see, there is apparently no consequence for making a false claim of ownership. Perhaps false claims of ownership should result in the loss of their ability to assert copyright at all. Actually, that probably wouldn't be appropriate but I'm at a loss for what would be appropriate in a case of false assertion especially when it should be obvious that they didn't create the works in question.

    However, when you create a "derivative work" based on public domain content, it's probably eligible for copyright protection in and of itself. The problem comes from where you draw the line. Perhaps in the interest of preserving the public domain, there should be law stating that any use of public domain material within derivative works should also fall within the public domain. Imagine how viral that could be...
    • by zotz (3951)
      "Perhaps in the interest of preserving the public domain, there should be law stating that any use of public domain material within derivative works should also fall within the public domain."

      You don't need for the derivatives to be public domain, copyleft would be enough, no?

      http://zotzbro.blogspot.com/2007/04/some-thoughts- on-copyright-offensive.html [blogspot.com]

      You may be interested in some of these ideas... Refinements welcome...

      all the best,

      drew
    • As far as I can see, there is apparently no consequence for making a false claim of ownership. Perhaps false claims of ownership should result in the loss of their ability to assert copyright at all.

      Reading this reminded me of a website [eliaskhnaser.com] I came across recently that sells training videos for Vmware's products.

      Can i sell my training on Ebay or other sites?

      No. Our copyright agreement listed here: http://www.eliaskhnaser.com/info/copyright.htm [eliaskhnaser.com] clearly outlines that the training material you buy can't be translat

    • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @04:27PM (#19861487) Homepage
      Perhaps in the interest of preserving the public domain, there should be law stating that any use of public domain material within derivative works should also fall within the public domain.

      That's already the law. You can read it at 17 USC 103(b). But it only covers that portion of the derivative work. So if you, say, make a movie where there is a scene involving you reading one of Shakespeare's sonnets, then the sonnet is still in the public domain. Anyone can watch that movie and copy down the sonnet, rather than having to consult some other source to get it. However, they can't copy anything from the movie that is copyrighted, such as the video or audio of you reciting the sonnet, or the remainder of the movie; only the sonnet itself. This applies to derivatives of anything, by the way; whatever portions of the work are derived from elsewhere keep their original copyright status and do not acquire the status of the newer work. E.g. Disney's 'Fantasia 2000' is mostly going to have a copyright date of 1999, but since part of it ('The Sorcerer's Apprentice') is from the original 1940 movie, that portion is still treated as a 1940 work, and will enter the public domain before the newer parts of the movie.

      It's not viral though. The use of public domain materials in a derivative work doesn't make the entire work derivative.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2007 @02:50PM (#19860835)
    I paid money to the family of King John of England after they claimed it was work derived from something called the "Magna Carta." I think I may have been rooked.
  • I thought that in some instances, you can copyright your presentation of a public domain work.

    In other words, people are free to copy the original, but not your [whatever] of the original. /TFA is 75 pages //I like the conclusion
    • by sumdumass (711423)
      Thats the way it worked with sheet music well before the DMCA and perhaps since the begining of copyright in american history.

      The article, at least the sumery makes a few assumtion forgeting the entire aspect of the copyright.
    • I'm pretty sure that Disney bought that 'right'..
    • by westlake (615356)
      I thought that in some instances, you can copyright your presentation of a public domain work.

      Here is a simple experiment:

      Open a Project Gutenberg e-text. Compare it to the Penguin Classics edition.

      You'll almost certainly find the Gutenberg text a very tough slog -- and that HTML or a PDF scan of the original isn't going to help you very much.

  • ...Beethoven's scores, it's not the score itself, it's the arrangement and/or the actual performance or recording that's copyrighted.
    • Not everything is an arrangement. You can get new prints of the original scores, and those can't be copyrighted.
      • by westlake (615356)
        Not everything is an arrangement. You can get new prints of the original scores, and those can't be copyrighted.

        The question ia, can a 21st century musician read and play an unedited 18th century score? Without having expert knowledge of 18th century notation, instruments, orchestrations, traditions of performance, and so on.

        • by Petrushka (815171)

          Not easily (and especially not if you're thinking of trying to read composers' handwriting). However, a decent edition from the 19th century -- which is when Beethoven wrote most of his better-known stuff -- is essentially indistinguishable from a modern edition except for the colour of the paper. Oh, and perhaps a dozen or so editorial emendations.

          Now there's a question ... when an editor inserts an "emendation" intended to recover more closely the original as penned by the composer, does that emendation

    • by CRCulver (715279)
      If editors now closely compared traditional printed scores with Beethoven's own sketches and created a score that they believed would be more accurate than what is usually passed down, then the result can be copyright.
  • by VidEdit (703021) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:06PM (#19860941)
    I'm very pro public domain, cc and copy-left but the FA omits some facts.

    Although he's right that merely digitizing or copying a public domain work does not result in a new copyright, creating a collection of public domain works does. The individual works remain in the public domain, but you can't copy the "collection" as a whole (eg. scan and upload the book as a whole to the internet) because the creativity of selecting and assembling the work is a new copyright. This, for example, would apply to Dover books of public domain clip art.

    Also, public domain music can be re-copyrighted to an extent--unfortunately--because individual arrangements can be copyrighted. You are free to use the original tune, but you can't copy a new arrangement because that arrangement is a new copyright.

    Public domain is not GPL. Just because a work is public domain doesn't mean that derivative works will be public domain.

    Now, that being said, the article is, otherwise, a good one. I'm tired of museums and "educational" institutions claiming copyright on the public domain works in their collection and copyright on the reproductions of those works. In those cases, no new creativity has occurred and there is no new copyright.
    • Listen to the types of things these crooks pitch to Google in a hopes of being bought out, just because they made a quick copy of the Google Maps style zoom interface.

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8447409032 490638691&q=type%3Agoogle++mona+lisa&total=1&start =0&num=10&so=1&type=search&plindex=0 [google.com]
      • by gordyf (23004)
        Did you even watch the video you linked to? They're doing a lot more than just a dragging-and-zooming interface...
    • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @04:20PM (#19861457) Homepage
      Although he's right that merely digitizing or copying a public domain work does not result in a new copyright, creating a collection of public domain works does.

      Well, it may, but it doesn't necessarily. A compilation is only copyrightable if the selection and arrangement is itself sufficiently creative. And the compilation copyright only pertains to the copyrightable portions of the selection and arrangement; not the materials which compromise the compilation.
    • Although he's right that merely digitizing or copying a public domain work does not result in a new copyright, creating a collection of public domain works does. The individual works remain in the public domain, but you can't copy the "collection" as a whole (eg. scan and upload the book as a whole to the internet) because the creativity of selecting and assembling the work is a new copyright.

      This is only partially true, from what I can remember. There's a Supreme Court case used by Wikipedia folks (name es

  • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:11PM (#19860975) Journal
    ALL claims of exclusive ownership and control over information are fraudulent. The law itself is a fraud.
  • by DigitAl56K (805623) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:16PM (#19860999)
    Don't go into convulsions just yet!

    But we need an effective way for marking content with important details such as copyright owner, copyright date, contact details, and perhaps even licensing details in terms of what the licensor explicitly allows to be done with the content, even if there is no artificial technology restriction imposed on what is disallowed.

    For example, if I find a piece of music on the Internet and I want to use it in something that I'm creating, how do I know if I can? Who do I contact? What if I don't even know what the song actually is? Sure enough, even knowing that the copyright holder doesn't want me to do such a thing might not stop me from doing it, but at least I know I'm acting against their wishes.

    If we could have some form of DRM that was actually more like "digital rights marking", and survived transcoding/editing, that would probably be very interesting. To the extent that it wasn't used to restrict our actions, but merely make us aware of what we were doing (in terms of our actions being acceptable or otherwise), maybe that's something we as a society could agree to adopt.
    • Same problem as Digital Restrictions Management: If you can see/hear it, you can copy it and save it to another format. If somebody doesn't want to keep the original copyright notice, why would they keep the Digital Rights Marking in place?
    • What you need is a signed id3 tag with that info, not DRM. ID3 tags containing an md5sum of the work (audio track, ebook, jpeg, what have you).
      Preferrably, appended to the file itself, so when the file makes the rounds, so does the copyright holder information.

      Further, this should be made *MANDATORY* by law on any electronic work that claims copyright.

      This would be a very good thing for all except the MAFIAA -

      It would serve several causes:
      1. It would paint a big mother of a "SUE ME" target on the forehead o
      • That's interesting, but you need far more than that.

        In a sense, you need to break free from the idea of digital signatures, except for signing the data in the tag itself. Media can be transcoded, edited, remixed, users can add custom file information, and all or part of the content could be used as part of a larger work. Perhaps the media will be sent over broadcast, or a streaming service. Ideally, after investigating how all of these processes work and what can realistically be achieved, as well as what i
        • by MikShapi (681808)
          >> In a sense, you need to break free from the idea of digital signatures, except for signing the data in the tag itself.

          Yes, and if pigs could fly.

          Since
          [a] Most media uses lossy codecs that effectively modify the core data in question
          [b] You're designing this for future lossy codecs that are not invented yet.

          I'd be happy if we had said signed id3 tags on the exact-md5-originals, since that is something we *can do right now*, and add additional possibly dodgy (false-positives-wise) stuff for derivate
          • You're arguing my point:

            [a] Most media uses lossy codecs that effectively modify the core data in question
            [b] You're designing this for future lossy codecs that are not invented yet.


            The idea is not to protect the media. The idea of the digital signature is to protect the assertions of the rights holder given in the tag. Maybe there is some kind of hash or summary of the original "media" part of the file they originally signed, but at the end of the day that may gradually become irrelevant as the work is tra
      • I realize that I'm replying twice to the same post here, and I do apologize, but I wanted to respond to one other point.

        I don't think that rights marking would be bad for the *AA agencies. It should not hurt them to mark their content, nor should it hurt them for independent artists to mark theirs. If in fact this does hurt their bottom line, one could only assume that it is because their current licensing model (e.g. SoundExchange might be a little bit questionable, based on what I have read). But there ar
    • by quantaman (517394)
      Hmm, that's actually might be a good idea.

      I'd drop the term DRM since that term is already associated with a technology that I feel differs greatly from what you propose. Call it something like License Compatibility System (LCS). Basically say in the the Gimp or something if you include a CC photo in your project it would automatically update the License requirements for the rest of the project, if you include two bits that have conflicting requirements or something if will inform you that the current licen
  • You mean... (Score:4, Funny)

    by realkiwi (23584) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:18PM (#19861013)
    ... Shakespeare is dead?
    • ... Shakespeare is dead?

      No. By his own words, `so long lives this, and this gives life to thee'.
    • by cei (107343)
      Nah, haven't you heard? He's off exploring some "Undiscovered Country"...
  • .... require them to put their legal copyrights into public domain.
  • music scores (Score:4, Informative)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:30PM (#19861073) Homepage
    To elaborate on what Stubear said, in the case of scores for old composers, sometimes we don't have a complete, original score. Just parts have survived, possibly from different versions of the work. There can be considerable creativity involved for a modern arranger to put together a score for such a work.

    And even if we do have the complete, original, score, it may have been for old instruments. A lute is not the same as a guitar, for example, and when Vivaldi wrote for lute, he knew how it would be tuned, and what fingerings were possible. To make it work on a guitar can be quite a creative challenge.

    Even if we still use the same instruments as the composer wrote the piece for, we might want a score for different instruments. You can't just sit down at your piano, or guitar, or with your full orchestra, with the score to, say, Bach's cantata #147 ("Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring") as originally written as a choral work, and start playing. It just won't work. You basically have to rewrite the music for those different settings.

  • From TFA:

    The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials.

    While this may be true, isn't there a way to fire back with a slander/libel charge? (ha! Let's see the pendants call me on this one :) In other words, you're claiming that I'm violating copyright on one of your works, but that claim is invalid because you don't actually own the copyright.

    One possible problem (and a lawyer would have to confirm if this is a problem) is that copyright vio

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Let's see the pendants call me on this one

      I hate myself for doing this, but it's spelled "pedant".
  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:33PM (#19861095)
    Some of the examples given could have valid claims for copyright. Layouts are protected under the Berne Convention. Sure the words of a Shakespeare play are free from copyright but the way they're laid out on a page is classed as a new work. You cannot scan in every page, then print the book as your own. In terms of art pieces on birthday cards, who is to say they haven't done extensive alterations to the original painting? Also, as petty as it may seem, putting "happy birthday" on the front is an original work and although "obvious" design choices could be reproduced in other works, straight out scanning and copying is a no no.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cpt kangarooski (3773)
      Layouts are protected under the Berne Convention.

      That's interesting. But they're generally not protected in the US. I can imagine cases where they would qualify, but usually typesetting and layout are simply not sufficiently creative to be copyrightable.
      • by jabuzz (182671)
        Except the USA has signed up to the Berne Convention, and it came into force on 1st March 1989. So while it might not have previously been protected, they are now.
    • by cei (107343)
      Layouts are protected under the Berne Convention.

      For some reason, now I'm trying to picture the "booth babes" at "BerneCon".
  • How to pay (Score:3, Funny)

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:35PM (#19861101) Homepage Journal
    The works of the public domain are under my copyright. Please fax me a dollar for each use.
    --
    Mass production solar power: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:45PM (#19861189) Homepage
    I must say that I'm not totally sure I agree with this (and I usually am pretty much right on with Slashdot group think on copyright laws).

    For instance, I have made a little pocket change reprinting a rare 1863 cookbook. By no means am I getting rich off of it, but I do put a copyright on the ebooks I sell just to have some legal options. I don't care if someone prints it out and OCRs it, there isn't a thing in the world I could do about that. But I had to spend a couple of days OCRing the material, cleaning it up, and formatting it. Anyone else wanting to sell it, or give it away, should have to do the same, not swipe my work.

    How exactly should someone be able to just start reselling my ebook and why is that wrong of me to put a copyright notice on it?

    Transporter_ii

    • You might want to review Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, in which the Supreme Court ruled that copyright protects creative expression, not 'sweat of the brow'.

      So while there may be something about your e-book that is protectable, the OCR of the original text almost certainly does not qualify.

      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_Publications_v. _Rural_Telephone_Service [wikipedia.org].
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``But I had to spend a couple of days OCRing the material, cleaning it up, and formatting it.''

      IANAL, but my understanding is that, in doing this, you have created a new work, and the copyright rightfully belongs to you.
    • The previous two posts are diametrically opposed. Maybe both are right, or neither. Could a lawyer please step in and clear this up?
    • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @04:56PM (#19861711) Homepage
      But I had to spend a couple of days OCRing the material, cleaning it up, and formatting it. Anyone else wanting to sell it, or give it away, should have to do the same, not swipe my work.

      The Supreme Court and the Constitution disagree with you. The authoritative case on your 'sweat of the brow' argument is Feist v. Rural. Here's the good bits, rearranged and edited a bit for clarity:

      [Some] courts developed a new theory to justify the protection of factual compilations. Known alternatively as "sweat of the brow" or "industrious collection," the underlying notion was that copyright was a reward for the hard work that went into compiling facts. The classic formulation of the doctrine appeared in Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co.:

      "The right to copyright a book upon which one has expended labor in its preparation does not depend upon whether the materials which he has collected consist or not of matters which are publici juris, or whether such materials show literary skill or originality, either in thought or in language, or anything more than industrious collection. The man who goes through the streets of a town and puts down the names of each of the inhabitants, with their occupations and their street number acquires material of which he is the author.

      The"sweat of the brow" doctrine had numerous flaws, the most glaring being that it extended copyright protection in a compilation beyond selection and arrangement - the compiler's original contributions - to the facts themselves. Under the doctrine, the only defense to infringement was independent creation. A subsequent compiler was "not entitled to take one word of information previously published," but rather had to "independently wor[k] out the matter for himself, so as to arrive at the same result from the same common sources of information." ...

      Without a doubt, the "sweat of the brow" doctrine flouted basic copyright principles. ... "Sweat of the brow" courts ... handed out proprietary interests in facts and declared that authors are absolutely precluded from saving time and effort by relying upon the facts contained in prior works. In truth, "[i]t is just such wasted effort that the proscription against the copyright of ideas and facts . . . [is] designed to prevent." "Protection for the fruits of such research . . . may, in certain circumstances, be available under a theory of unfair competition. But to accord copyright protection on this basis alone distorts basic copyright principles in that it creates a monopoly in public domain materials without the necessary justification of protecting and encouraging the creation of `writings' by `authors.'" ...

      The sine qua non of copyright is originality. To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be original to the author. Original, as the term is used in copyright, means only that the work was independently created by the author (as opposed to copied from other works), and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. To be sure, the requisite level of creativity is extremely low; even a slight amount will suffice. The vast majority of works make the grade quite easily, as they possess some creative spark, "no matter how crude, humble or obvious" it might be. Originality does not signify novelty; a work may be original even though it closely resembles other works, so long as the similarity is fortuitous, not the result of copying. To illustrate, assume that two poets, each ignorant of the other, compose identical poems. Neither work is novel, yet both are original and, hence, copyrightable.

      Originality is a constitutional requirement. The source of Congress' power to enact copyright laws is Article I, 8, cl. 8, of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to "secur[e] for limited Times to Authors . . . the exclusive Right to their respective Writings." In two decisions from the late 19th Century - The Trade-Mark Cases, and Burrow-

      • by Petrushka (815171)
        Sorry to butt in, but that was staggeringly informative. I'd say "useful" as well, except that of course it's not legal advice :-) It's probably worth noting, though, that things don't work this way in all countries, as a perusal of the relevant Wikipedia article [hhttp] quickly showed me: it appears that in Commonwealth countries, at least, you can get copyright for "sweat of the brow" work, provided that the work requires any degree of expertise.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @03:46PM (#19861205) Homepage
    I frequently use the ProQuest databases of newspaper story images, available courtesy of my public library. These are digitized page images. Those for The New York Times go cover 1851 to 2003; those for the Boston Globe, 1872 - 1923.

    All of these, without exception, bear the notice "Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission."

    In the case of articles published before 1923 (and don't you think it's interesting that the Globe cuts off at exactly 1923?) I completely fail to see how these can be anything other than a faithful reproduction of a work published in the United States before 1923.

    Darn it, at the very least, if someone is going to claim copyright in something, they should be required to give an explicit statement of the legal basis for their claim. Maybe there's some way this material is copyrighted, but in the case of material that every university library guideline says is in the public domain, the burden of proof... or at least, the burden of saying why this is an exception to the general rule... should fall on the person making the assertion.
  • by Stanislav_J (947290) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @04:33PM (#19861515)

    I sell out of print books on eBay. There is a certain historic African-American sorority that published a quite hard to find history of the organization -- tends to bring triple-digit prices when you can find a copy. I've been fortunate enough to twice have found a copy (once at an estate sale, once in a Goodwill), and both times when it was listed on eBay, I was INUNDATED with hostile messages from members of that sorority. Apparently, they believe that the fact that the book is copyrighted means that only THEY can sell copies, and only to fellow members -- as far as they are concerned, I don't have the right to read it or even posess it, let alone sell it! Both times, they lodged complaints with eBay who politely explained to them the right of resale and the fact that pretty much every used book sold, whether on eBay or in your local book nook, is copyrighted. But that didn't stop them from continuing to harass me and threaten me with legal action (take yer best shot, I told 'em). Really makes one wonder what sort of deep, dark secrets are in that book that they don't want any "outsiders" to get their hands on a copy!

  • Teenagers downloading music may not be the worst copyright offenders.

    This guy is kidding right? Or he is referring to adult downloading movies/software as the worst offenders.

    In fact the worst copyright offenders are lazy people. That don't care about their users' violations until, few days after the content was published, some copyright owner find that content, mail or fax (the requested medium) a DMCA notification, an wait until, in a weekday, a clerk at the lazy company office finally pick that notice f
  • Well, I don't know about the US, but here in GB a new printed edition of a PD work enjoys a 20 year copyright. That means that if I were to input a piece of PD Beethoven unchanged into Lilypond, the output would be my copyright for a short period.

    If I were to rearrange this Beethoven, perhaps making a simpler version for beginning pianists, then this would be a significant change and I would get a full life+70 copyright on it.

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