Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Public Domain How To Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art, & More-- Attorney Stephen Fishman--Review

The Public Domain How To Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art, & More-- Attorney Stephen Fishman--Review

This is an excellent overview of how to find and use material that is in the public domain. It is quite an interesting book. There is a lot of material that is in the public domain. You have to be very careful with copyright. The United States government for example encourages people to put copyrights on things even if they are in the public domain. The maximum fine for putting a copyright symbol on a public domain item is $2500. This is a pittance compared to what most companies stand to gain by claiming copyright.

Copyright is used to ensure that authors gain money and recognition for their work. According to the author, almost everything in the United States written or published before 1923 is no longer under copyright. There are ways which publishers get around this.

For example, the author, Stephen Fishman describes how Lexis licenses the use of its databases creating a contract for use of legal documents. The legal documents themselves are in the public domain, but the contract spells out how the database will be used. Another example is that the cartoon Krazy Kat is in the public domain, but, the name Krazy Kat is still trademarked. Also, if a person appears in a photograph, they may have rights of publicity which are different than copyright.

I learned a lot from reading this book. Some of it is directly applicable for my job. For example displaying a book in a library or museum is not a violation of copyright because the book is not being distributed or intended to be distributed.

In my blog, I use many pictures produced by the United States government. Most of the material published by the United States government is not protected by copyright. There are some exceptions like the Smithsonian and some documents produced by the Department of Commerce. It is fun to look through the photographic archives of the Library of Congress available on the web.

The book covers a huge variety of different formats including writing, photographs, art, maps, software, television, radio, recordings, music, architectural drawings, choreography, and more. There are also sections on the copyright and the internet and international copyright.

Just because someone put something on the internet does not make it public domain. Even if a person does not put a copyright notice up, they can claim that their publisher forgot to put the notice up and they are protected by copyright.

Also virtually all software is protected by copyright. No software was produced before 1923 in the United States, the same goes for television. There are a variety of software licenses which organizations have created including creative commons, freeware, and shareware. These are licenses for use which are legally different than the terms of copyright.

The way the Author describes "fair use" is quite interesting. There is no equivalent of fair use in most other countries than the United States. Also, many countries have very different copyright terms than the United States. Publishing something on the web can put you in jeopardy of violating international copyright laws.

The one idea in fair use that I get is the right to criticism. I have a right to take small pieces of an authors work from a book so I can criticise the content. The same goes for film. I do this all the time on my blog.

This book was fascinating to read. Because it was was written by a lawyer for laypersons, the book was very precise and clear in its language. It is also very intense in depth reading. It took over a week for me to read the book. There is a set of related internet links and books at the end of each chapter to provide further understanding of the subject matter being covered. There are also numerous black and white photographs throughout the book. The book is c May 2008, Nolo Press, 4th Edition. It was listed as a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title. Choice reviews academic books. Nolo Press publishes many books of law for the layperson.


Patricia Rockwell said...

This book sounds like one all bloggers should read, as so many of them infringe upon copyright laws on a daily basis.

Book Calendar said...

It is so easy to go wrong with copyright. I try and be wary around this issue. Most likely nothing will happen. But, sometimes it is one of those things where if you keep on doing it over and over it catches up with you.