The copyright saga continues. The E2 policy change and Salvage Quest increased interest in ever-more detailed questions of copyright law, and resulted in some proposals for changes/additions to the Copyright FAQ. After the obligatory ritual whining to dem_bones that I'm not a copyright lawyer, I researched the issues. Here's some of what I learned.

"Choice of law": E2's servers and noders and authors can all be in different countries: which country's copyright law applies? Lawyers call this the "choice of law" issue. The infringement law which applies is the law of the country where the infringement takes place, i.e. where the work is published. Therefore, United States law almost certainly applies to infringement issues. Those issues would include any complaint that E2 is violating someone's copyright, and any defenses we would offer, such as the defense that the work is in the public domain, or that our use constituted "fair use". Yes, there are certain international minimum standards which the country's law must uphold under international treaty, i.e. the Berne Convention, but current United States law meets or exceeds those standards of protection for the copyright holder.

Things get much more complicated when we start talking about "ownership" of the copyright. Aside from a situation in which you are not sure who to ask for permission (let's see, do I ask Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Apple Records, Michael Jackson or Sony for permission to use Beatles lyrics?) "ownership" is not likely to be a concern. In case you were wondering, however, it appears that the applicable law for "ownership" questions is either the law where the author resides or where the author created the work.

Example: Author James M. Barrie assigned the royalties from his play, Peter Pan, to an orphan's hospital. The charity was granted a perpetual copyright by the UK Parliament. Perpetual copyright is not allowed, however, by United States Constitution. Whose law applies? Answer: if the issue is who gets the royalties ("ownership") then UK law applies. If the issue is whether or when the copyright expired, US law applies. (Since the play was written in 1903 and performed in 1904, it's in the public domain in the United States.)

Public Domain: Works published before 1923 are in the public domain under United States law. Works published between 1923 and 1963 might be in the public domain (because under the law of that period you lost copyright protection if you published without a copyright notice or failed to renew your registration) but only careful research can establish that for a particular work. Works created after 1963 are not yet in the public domain.

For E2's purposes, the only easily verifable claim that a work is in the public domain is evidence that it was published before 1923. I'm recommending that we use that year as our "bright line" rule. Otherwise, we should presume until proven otherwise that works published after 1923 are still protected by copyright and require permission to be used.


September 10, 2003: I have abused my powers as an editor to clean up the node about St. John's College (my alma mater). After greatly expanding my own writeup under that topic, I deleted two other, weaker writeups. Like the cowbird, or European cuckoo, my writeups force the other little birdies from the nest. BWA-HA-HA. September 11, 2003: Noting some rather weak writeups on the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, I decide to give them the "cowbird" treatment. Being a lawyer, it's easy for me to quote laws and give proper citations, thus giving my cowbird the edge. Unfortunately, we can't simply delete the competing writeups this time.

September 15, 2003: Woke up in a bad mood and decided to pick on newbies. A willing victim obligingly appeared, in the form of Tech Support Doesn't Care: a linkless, unformatted rant. You geeks really think this stuff is funny? Meet Mr. Klaproth! Later, I ed-cool Evil is not the same as cool. BWA-HA-HA!

September 16, 2003: Oolong gives me shit for ed-cooling Evil is not the same as cool, so I add my own writeup with some references to classic literature supporting TheLibra's unpopular but obviously brilliant writeup. I thus make myself COOL AS LIQUID NITROGEN! Who says crime doesn't pay? BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA! BWA-HA-HA! *cough* *choke* *wheeze*

September 20, 2003: I participated in arcanamundi's Prosenoder Cup 2003, both as an entrant, and using editor powers to shoo unregistered horses off the track. Prose fiction is something new for me, and while I'm not particularly thrilled by my own contribution, it was certainly an interesting exercise.

September 23, 2003: It's time for unlicensed lyrics to go, and ascorbic brags about 300 kills in the past 12 hours. I figure I should do five or six at least. I get a wonderful suggestions from m_turner: Simon and Garfunkel! Yes! The Sounds of Silence catalog bites the big one. Tabbed browsing is essential for this work. Yay for tabbed browsing!