Re: Copyright and Published Papers

Nick Arnett (
Wed, 5 Apr 1995 13:32:31 +0500

At 2:27 PM 4/4/95, David Mattison wrote:

>So the question becomes, what protection can copyright holders expect if
>their work is released to the Internet, especially in an open environment
>like the Web? The answer of course is none unless the Web site itself
>provides that protection. Authors can put all the copyright symbols and
>statements they want on their work, but they are still relying on the good
>will of the researcher and reader to respect their copyright.

I'm not sure if you really meant so, but you seem to be implying that
there's no *legal* protection for copyrighted works served on the Web,
which is incorrect. Even when a copyright holder posts to Usenet or this
mailing list, which carries implicit permission to copy (that's how they
work, after all), the copyright remains. On the Web, there's no implicit
permission to make more copies beyond the one created by your browser.
There's virtually never an implicit release of copyright to the public
domain; that sort of thing can only be done explicitly, in writing.

Take this message, for example. I believe that anyone has the right to
copy this message for just about any legal purpose, since I'm sending it to
the listserv software, which makes all the copies that people might
request. However, I still hold copyright in this message, which means that
if you misrepresented it as your own (plagiarized), I'd have a legitimate
complaint. However, since this message has virtually no commercial value,
my complaint would be more along the lines of unfair business practice than
copyright infringement.

The second part of your paragraph strikes closer to the practical reality,
which is that it's difficult to enforce copyrights when the intellectual
property is so readily copied and transmitted. To a large extent, we do
depend on the good will of those who read Web pages and such, but we can
help that along by including copyright notices and clear descriptions of
our intentions when posting intellectual property on a Web server.

As to the original question, absent of any written agreement to the
contrary, the author of an article contributed to a journal will hold the
copyright, assuming that it is "work for hire," rather than work performed
by an employee in the normal course of a job (in which case the employer
holds the copyright).

Disclaimers -- this isn't legal advice, I'm not a lawyer, I'm not speaking
for Verity, these are my opinions based on U.S. law. I was the editor of
"The Multimedia Producer's Legal Survival Guide" and I'll be talking about
this subject at Web World in Santa Clara...