Hi folks: I would like to make a few comments regarding the ongoing copyright issue that has been discussed and debated on this list. First, although I have an extensive legal background, I have never done any work in the copyright field, so I do not speak with any particular legal expertise in this field. However, as a result of this debate, I have done some research and I have concluded the following: Technically, Neal is correct that performing the song or reading the poem of another author on the internet, such as in our little talent show, violates copyright law, because it publishes another individual's creation without permission. I have no problem with Neal's strict adherence to this law, since he is the individual doing the work of putting it together. The narrow exception to the prohibition of use of copyrighted material without permission is in the "fair use doctrine" which does not apply here. I have pasted a summary of the doctrine in at the end of this message, as it is explained on the U. S. Copyright Office's web site. Despite all of the above, we must recognize that the internet is flooded with web sites, home brew radio stations, and lengthy excerpts that use the copyrighted songs and other creations of authors without their permission. As a practical matter, no action is ever taken against such use, as long as it is not for a commercial purpose, or in the case of file sharing, a pervasive epidemic affecting music sales. Thus, if I operate a little internet radio station from my bedroom and play Beatles, Rolling Stones, and old Doors songs, because I love that stuff and want to keep the sound alive, I am technically violating copyright law, but I have no doubt that no record industry rep or individual connected with the bands are going to sue me or even request that I cease the practice. After all, such a practice only advances the popularity and image of the artists. That would not be the case, however, if I am selling their work. There are singers in small clubs all over this country who sing popular songs of other composers as part of their acts without ever seeking permission. As a rule, they are not asked to cease such a practice. The recording industry eventually aggressively sought to end the practice of sharing recordings on the internet through Napster and other file sharing sites, because the industry perceived that it was a pervasive problem that was beginning to have a significant economic effect on sales of recorded music. Even that was after years of abuse and warnings. However, in that case, people were giving away the finished commercial versions of songs sold on CD. In the case of our little talent show, we are basically just a small group of blind people who have gotten together to help each other and have some fun. I cannot imagine that any artist would even request that we cease using their material, much less pursue legal action, but as I said, it is not my web site and I am not the person doing the work to put the show together. Neal has taken on that responsibility and has the right to adhere strictly to the letter of the law if he so chooses. In summary, it does technically violate copyright law to use other composers' material without permission in our little, innocuous group, but as a practical matter, it is extremely unlikely that any composer would object to such use, even assuming that they ever learned of it. Below is a summary of the Fair Use Doctrine as promised Fair Use One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright act ( title 17, U.S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of "fair use." Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law. Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered "fair," such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair: List of 4 items 1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; 2. the nature of the copyrighted work; 3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and 4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. list end The distinction between "fair use" and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: "quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported." Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself; it does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work. The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission. When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of "fair use" would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered "fair" nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.