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RHJ's Frequently Asked Questions About Copyright

The FAQ provided by RHJ is simply an overview of some of your responsibilities under the most basic copyright laws, and provided to clear up common misconceptions. THIS POST IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. If you want legal advice on copyright matters, consult a copyright attorney.

*Can I post copyrighted material?

No, do not post copyrighted material. That means that you should not buy a Jewish humor book, type in the jokes, and post them, nor should you post the lyrics to a song. Copyright means that, generally speaking, only the author or copyright holder has the right to copy it.

*What are examples of items that are copyrighted?
- Newspaper articles and the text of radio and TV broadcasts.
- Movie dialogs
- Web pages
- Song lyrics
- Joke compilations
- Works from books no longer in print
- Modern translations of ancient texts
- Books, magazines, pamphlets
- Any other original work, published, printed, or recorded

*What about really old material (over 100 years)?

Although really old material is most likely unprotected, there may be underlying trademarks or other protections that you may not be aware of. For example, you cannot copy a *newly* translated story from a 100-year-old book, as the translation would be copyrighted.

*Can't I post under Fair Use?

Many people wrongly think that "fair use" applies if only a certain percentage of the document is used, or if they will not profit from it. In fact, there are many situations in which these kinds of uses are clear violations of copyright law. "Fair Use" Laws permit the use of portions of copyrighted text only for specific purposes under specific situations. Unless you are familiar with applicable Fair Use provisions, don’t feel that you will be covered under Fair Use laws.

*Copyright facts:

  • Copyright applies whether or not the circle-C or the word "copyright" appears.
  • Simply giving credit or referencing the copyright is not a legal way to distribute a copyrighted work.
  • Copyright law (under the Berne Convention) applies throughout most of the world (in one form or another). You should not copy items published in another country believing that you are "immune".
  • If you reproduce a copyrighted work without specific permission, you have violated copyright law.
  • If it's been floating around the net, or you found it on the web, the copyright status is not changed. Its common availability does not place it in the public domain.
  • There is no exemption if you give credit to the copyright holder, if you acknowledge the copyright, or whether or not you charge for the reproduction.
  • Although a minor transgression would most likely be dealt with gently by the copyright holder, they are under no obligation to do so. Violators of copyright laws can potentially face civil and/or criminal charges.

However, do note that many Jewish humor compendia are compilations of jokes in circulation. Once a joke is in circulation, publishing it does not give the "author" copyright protection for all the jokes. The author has only a "compilation copyright" preventing anyone from copying the work, significant subset, or superset.

An excellent synopsis of copyright is at Brad Templeton's site:

http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html

Comments about this post should be sent to: rhj-board@kamens.brookline.ma.us

rev 11/1/2002

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