Here are a few
copyright law "facts."
1. All U.S. works
PUBLISHED before 1923 are in the public domain.
experts estimate that 85% of all U.S. works published between 1923
and 1963 are now in the public domain.
3. All facts and
ideas are in the public domain.
4. There are no
official "copyright cops." However, there are many self-appointed
ones who fuss about sharing of materials.
published before 3/1/89 without a valid copyright notice is in the
public domain. (There are some exceptions to this, but it is my
conviction that very few genealogy works would qualify.)
6. A compilation of
facts is protected by copyright only to the extent that the
selection of the material and the arrangement of the material is
ORIGINAL. (A compilation of ALL of the headstone inscriptions for a
cemetery does not meet the originality requirement for selection of
protection in a work does not extend to any pre-existing material.
8. The amount of
time and effort put into a work has no bearing on the copyright
status of a work.
protects those portions of a work that are original, that were
10. Works published
in other countries are protected in the United States as though the
works were published in the United States.
protection for a work begins when the work is fixed in some sort of
"tangible form." This included writing, typing to paper, and saving
it on a computer.
12. A copyright
notice is no longer required for protection.
13. E-mail is
copyrighted as soon as it is sent or saved.
14. There are many
erroneous claims on internet web-pages about what is copyrighted.
15. There is a lot
of copyright infringement on the internet.
16. There is
significantly less infringement on genealogical web sites and
mailing lists primarily because we deal with fact based material and
old material where there is no copyright, the copyright has lapsed,
or the material was published without a copyright notice.
17. U.S government
works cannot be copyrighted.
18. U.S. government
works may contain material that is copyrighted by others.
19. The use of
preexisting material in a work does not change the copyright status
of the preexisting material. If it was copyrighted, it still is. If
it was in the public domain, it still is.
infringement is almost always a civil rather than a criminal matter.
I wrote the above
20 copyright "facts" off the cuff, without referring to any source
other than my own memory. The truth of the matter is that the
"facts" I've written about are more than just facts. In this
instance, the bare facts are clothed in a considerable amount of
original expression, which is protected by copyright law..
The arrangement of
words used to express the "facts" is original text created by me as
I typed this message. Even though someone else may sit down to do
this same thing and come up with something very similar on this fact
based topic, my original expression was protected as soon as I
clicked on the "send" icon.
The material on this page was
originally posted to the Copyright-L mailing list on RootsWeb.
Prior to publishing it on this web page, it was edited somewhat.