I'm no expert, but I think there are a lot of misconceptions about
what copyright is. I write >from a Brit perspective, but my understanding
is that the principle of copyright is the same worldwide.
There is no copyright in "facts, news, ideas or information. Copyright
exists in the form in which information is expressed and the selection
and arrangement of the material all of which involves skill and labour".
Source: McNae's Essential Law for Journalists by Tom Welsh and Walter
Greenwood published by Butterworths.
Let's say your cousin has taken your information and drawn a magnificent
oak tree complete with golden acorns. In each of the acorns, he or
she has put names and dates you have provided. It is not the names and
dates which are "copyrighted" but the artistic creation -- the way the
information has been presented.
Copyright (literally "right to copy") is about artistic, as well as
monetary, control. It is the copyright holder's perogative to licence
rights for publication. How this is done, with or without payment, is
a separate issue. Copyright can exist without payment for rights ever
being demanded by the copyright holder.
If an author has not created material working as an employee for an
employer, he or she always holds the copyright of his or her original
work unless she or he chooses to relinquish it, just as a photographer
holds the copyright of a photo he or she has taken or a computer
programmer holds the copyright of a computer program.
There is usually no reason why an author should give up his or her
copyright. The licensing of a work should be enough. eg first British
serial rights or first USA serial rights, first French serial rights etc.
One could assign the world rights for an article in perpetuity without
payment while retaining the copyright and artistic control.
This is important to ensure the "integrity" of the material is retained
and it cannot not then be changed in such a way as to perversely distort
the spirit in which it was written -- this is not the same as the material
being edited ("subbed") in order to fit onto a page.
The same principle applies to photography and photographic manipulation.
The internet does allow an unprecedented mixture of non commercial
websites and commercial websites, "volunteers" and salaried employees.
This should not be used, intentionally or unintentionally, to take away
entitlement to the "free" exchange of information or falsely equate
with breach of copyright the unprecedented flow of information between
unprecedented numbers of people allowed by the internet.
I have noticed a sinister trend on the internet in general, a mob
instinct to close down ways of exchanging information always freely
available before mass internet use existed. These types of misinterpretation
are paving the way, by custom not regulation, to unscrupulous annexing of
information whilst removing the freedom of the individual to obtain
and exchange snippets of information for personal, non commercial use.
Susan Koslovsky Pearlman <Suprlmn@...> writes:
<< Dear Friends,
Not being an attorney, I need some advice on how copyright laws work.
Recently I posted a comment about a cousin who instructed everyone to
refuse to share genealogical information with me. The reply >from someone I
found on JGFF, and with whom I offered to share information, was positively
vitriolic.Now I learn that he has taken this vendetta [over the spelling of
several names!!!] one step further and has copyrighted his research. The
problem is, that much of his research is based on information that I
personally supplied to him, including branches >from my great-grandparents
down to my own grandchildren. Does this law now say that he "owns" this
information, so that if I should choose to print a family tree for my
children, I would be violating a law? Surely that is not the intent of
copyright laws, to turn genealogists -- amateur or professional -- into
criminals. I'd appreciate hearing >from some of you mavens on the
ramifications for all of us in such an instance. >>