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Re: Dino & Copyrights
Many people have been weighing in on this subject on the side of an
absolutist interpretation of copyright law. Time to throw a monkey wrench,
perhaps a small one, into this. This is starting to get way off the topic
of dinosaurs, but there are dinosaur web page authors on the list and people
who write dinosaur stuff so this may or may not be relevant and helpful.
Copyright, at least in the US, is *not* absolute. Title 17 specifically
exempts certain usage of copyrighted works, and has set up a doctrine for
use called "Fair Use."
The four part test for "Fair Use" is as follows:
1) Nature of the work. It is harder to claim copyright infringment of a
factual work than it is a creative work. If Thom Holtz publishes a list of
derived characters of _Tyrannosaurus rex_ he would be unlikely to win a
copyright infringement case if somebody uses it (although, in a bizarre
twist of case law, if somebody also uses the FORMAT then Dr. Holtz might
win). If Betty Cunningham paints an action scene of two bull _Tyrannosaurus
rex_ based on Dr. Holtz's list, this is considered a creative work and Betty
could burn you in court, depending on the other 3 parts of the test.
Copying a drawing Dr. Holtz made of these derived characters would likely
depend largely on the remaining parts of the test.
2) Nature of the use. This is usually a test of profit vs. non-profit.
Putting it on a free Dinosaur web page would be more favorably looked upon
than publishing it on a pay-per-view Dinosaur site, or in a book expounding
your views of theropod evolution sold for profit.
3) Substantiality of the use. This is a "how much" question. Using a
sentence or two, or a paragraph, may be safe, but using every last word of
_The Dinosaur Heresies_ would be a no-no. This probably applies to artwork
as well, such as using only the foot of one of the _T. rex_es in Betty's
painting vs. using the whole thing.
4) Economic impact. How much money did you cost the copyright holder?
If the copyright holder can sell the work and your use substantially
diminished the market for it, you're in trouble. This is one of the things
(along with #3) that got Kinkos in trouble; by copying chapters out of
textbooks, a significant market for the entire textbook was lost and
therefore big bucks were lost. If you publish an article, photograph,
drawing, etc., or put in a newsletter, or put it in class notes, and
subsequently make it so people don't have to pay the copyright holder top
dollar for his work, be expecting a call from his lawyer.
There are other SPECIFIC exemptions to copyright infringement, such as
using text from a work in a criticism of that work.
There are no guidelines to the weight a judge will give to any given
point. Some judges may weigh certain factors more than others, and the
consequences of violating one point may greatly overshadow the others (such
as if a non-profit organization puts an image on their website that
subsequently costs the copyright holder 10,000,000,000,000 dollars in sales).
I'm not a lawyer, but I did learn copyright law from a lawyer, for
whatever that's worth. You use the above information at your own risk. If
you wish to read the law yourself, it's in Title 17 of US Code available
on-line at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/ There are also numerous FAQs
on copyright law, simply do a search on "copyright faq" on one of the web
For those that are interested, I believe all of the works on Dinosauria
On-Line can pass the "Fair Use" test. However, I've nonetheless secured
permission for most of them and am in the process of getting permission for
the rest. Better safe than sorry, I always say.....
** Dinosauria On-Line. Home of THE DINOSTORE ** "Those who trade a **
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** Omnipedia. http://www.dinosauria.com ** either." -- Jeff Poling **