[bct] Re: Copyright

  • From: The Scarlet Wombat <coconut@xxxxxxx>
  • To: blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2005 13:01:54 -0500

Hi Mary, I think I should perhaps say a bit more about the copyright issue because it can be confusing and we all need to understand it enough so we do not garner lawsuits unto ourselves, nor unto Larry or anyone else on whose web site we post our material. I am not a lawyer, but have some knowledge in these areas.

Court decisions have held that material distributed on the internet is copyrighted by default, even your emails are copyrighted, which is why you should always get permission of a person before passing their email on unless they ask for it to be redistributed. This means, until a court finds to the contrary, podcasts are copyrighted to the creator.

What may be copyrighted? Anything you create, writing, music, paintings, sculptures, any creative efforts may be copyrighted.

How long does the copyright last? It lasts for 75 years after the death of the creator and even longer in some cases.

What cannot be copyrighted. Formulas cannot be copyrighted. This includes recipes. For example, you can copy and republish or repost a recipe from the current copy of Bon Appetit magazine, but you may not use their formatting, type style nor comments, only the actual recipe.

How about music? Well, if the composer has been dead for more than 75 years, using the music is fine, but not necessarily a specific performance. While Silent Night has long since passed into the public domain, a given performance of it may well be within copyright. Let's say the Mormon Tabernacle Choir did Silent Night ten years ago. This performance is in copyright, even if the words and tune are not.

Midi productions of songs are not copyright violations, even if the composer is still alive. The actual notes of a composition are considered a formula under the law, so if I wrote a song with words, you could use my melody in a midi file and I could not sue you. However, you could not use my words until 75 years after I die. And, I plan to live to age 127, so eat your heart out. [grin] In the same vein, if the group of Tom, Dick and Harry performed my song, you could not use their performance as it is copyrighted, even though the formula part, the notes, are not.

I know this stuff seems confusing, and court decisions are changing the law in small ways all the time. I learned this material while taking an internet law course as part of a webmaster certification program.

You can buy cds of all kinds of music, including Christmas music, that is royalty free. This means you may use it in your podcasts. Sometimes, it is specified you may use it but not charge for it, sometimes, you may charge for it, other times, you may charge, but then you must pay royalties. It is all a confusing mess.

I see arguements on both sides of this issue, the so-called freedom or open source movement and the artists' side of things, they want to be paid for their creative labors. Both sides have points in their favor. For now, however, we are well advised to follow the law so nobody gets in trouble at all.

Chocolate for all,


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