GEN-WEB AND COPYWRITE LAW This is the letter sent to GenWeb County Coordinators with regard to the copywrite law and our position with it. Please respect all laws and follow these guidelines in your requests for "lookups" and information from other individuals. LETTER: Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 20:06:25 +0000 Subject: WEB: Our Proposed Position on Lookups Reply-To: email@example.com After much research and discussion, here is my position on the issue of Lookups. John Rigdon National Coordinator The USGenWeb Project COPYRIGHT FAQ It is vital for genealogists/family historians to understand copyright laws, not only for the protection of others' rights, but to ensure that we retain the rights to our own work. Besides any legal ramifications; we, as a great new project, do not want to offend our many friends who work tirelessly for little profit to publish these great source references. We do not want to offend those who do legitimate professional research - let us not make these people our enemies - We want them as our partners. It is that recognition plus concern for the organization and all individuals involved which led to establishment of this policy. The only way to protect the project as a whole and each of us as participants in that project is to remove all lookup offers for which you do not have written permissions or determinations that the source is public domain and therefore requires no permission. Infringement can occur from several different reasons or actions and ALL these aspects must be considered in each case. 1. The source itself--is it copyrighted or public domain? If it is copyrighted, who holds the copyright and what are the requirements of that person or entity? 2. The amount and type of information taken from the source. 3. The person or entity using the information from the source -- because different rules apply to different entities. Are we equivalent to a public library? Are we educators? Is USGenweb a non-profit organization in the LEGAL sense? I think most of us will agree that this project doesn't yet have clear legal claim to any of those titles or privileges. This doesn't mean that we can't qualify, only that at this moment we don't qualify. 4. The market effect of one's use of the information-- it will probably be on this point that someone will eventually be sued for copyright infringement. We are not acting in private here. We are not merely pursuing our private avocations. We have chosen to join a grassroots movement to protect and preserve our family histories for our nation and the generations to come. In doing so we have "gone public" in a big way, and we are now subject to laws that govern such public groups. We're all here to help the genealogical community. Folks doing lookups should understand that authors have a legitimate right to compensation, and a well-done lookup should include telling folks how to buy the book when it's of significant value to their research. Authors need to understand that genealogists have a right to look before buying and that lookups should be perceived as a marketing tool rather than a loss of sales. ============================================================================= USGenWeb'S Official Policy USGenWeb will not tolerate any copyright violations. Lookup requests should be limited to one name, or perhaps two if it is a married couple. Information given will be minimal, for example if it is a cemetery lookup, the information will be the name of the cemetery and the dates on the headstone. Please do not ask for "everybody with X surname" or an entire family group, or for hardcopies to be mailed; the volunteers have been asked not to comply with such requests. Our lookups will extend to searching the book to determine if the book would be helpful to you in your research. Should the book prove useful, we can provide the authors address and ordering information. The USGenWeb Project will endeavor to get a WRITTEN statement from each copyright holder which stipulates which books may be used for lookups. ============================================================================= Proposed wording which we need to have from copyright holders: I grant non-exclusive permission for individuals to do lookups for the USGenWeb Project from my publications. I am not forfeiting my rights under 17 USCode Section 106. I grant permission for lookups in ______________ I DO NOT grant permission for lookups in ______________ Signed______________________ Dated ______________________ ============================================================================= Here is a general overview of copyright law. 1. COPYRIGHT LAW Since Jan 1, 1978, everything an author (including you and I) writes is protected by copyright the minute it is written. 2. DURATION OF COPYRIGHT Copyright protection under this law extends for the rest of the author's life and an additional 50 years beyond it. The new law does not depend on publication. Works by two or more authors extend 50 years beyond the death of the last author to die. Anonymous works, works under a pseudonym, and works for hire extend 75 years from publication or 100 years from creation. 3. PUBLIC DOMAIN Any published/written material on which the copyright has expired is considered to be in the "public domain" and may be used by the general public without payment to or permission from the author. An article, poem, etc. may be copyrighted individually, but it is also covered if the publication in which is appears is copyrighted. There has been some discussion that authors/publishers cannot copyright facts. This is and isn't true. The original records cannot be copyrighted, but for example, a compilation of them can be. Anyone, however, is free to consult the original records and make their own compilation and are free to do whatever they want with them. But, even though someone abstracts/transcribes public records, they cannot be tossed about either. The law specifically recognizes the right of the person doing the work, in this case transcription, to be compensated for their work. 4. COPYRIGHT BEFORE 1978 Under the old copyright law, a published work was copyrighted for 28 years and could be renewed for another 28 years, for a total of 56 years. When the new law was passed, that copyright protection was extended to a total of 75 years for all works currently copyrighted. So works published earlier than Jan 1, 1921, are in the public domain. 5. FAIR USE The copyright act does not set down definite limitations on how many paragraphs or words constitute "fair use" of copyrighted materials. Instead, it sets up four criteria to determine fair use: A. The purpose and character of the use B. The nature of the copyrighted work C. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the entire work D. Effect of the use on the market for or value of the work. The author of The Beginning Writer's Answer Book concludes that a good standard is to limit yourself to quoting fewer than a hundred words from an entire book. 6. INDIRECT QUOTATION One way of avoiding violating copyright is to paraphrase material--to put it into your own words--or use indirect quotes. You should, however, always give credit to the source and refrain from extensive use of paraphrase or indirect quotes. 7. RULE OF THUMB If use of material created by someone else diminishes the market value of that person's work, his or her copyright has been violated. 8. WHERE TO GET PERMISSION The publisher is the best place to write for permission to quote from a book, poem, song or magazine article. Ask your reference librarian for help locating the publisher's address if it is not printed in the book or magazine. If the publisher is no longer in business, try locating the author in Who's Who in Literature at your local library. There is usually no fee for permission to quote from copyrighted materials. 9. Burden of Proof in Infringement Actions During the course of its deliberations on this section, the Committee's [US House of Representatives] attention was directed to a recent court decision holding that the plantiff in an infringment action had the burden of establishing that the allegedly infringing copies in the defendant's possession were not lawfully made or acquired under section 27 of the present law [that would be the 1909 version of the copyright law, the 1976 act changed this], American International Pictures, Inc., v Foreman, 400 FSupp928 (S.D. Alabama 1975). The Committee believes that the court's decision, if followed, would place a virtually impossible burden on copyright owners. The decision is also inconsistent with the established legal principle that the burden of proof should not be placed upon a litigant to establish facts particuarly within the knowledge of his adversary. The defendant in such actions clearly has the particular knowledge of how possession of the particular copy was acquired, and should have the burden of providing this evidence to the court. It is the intent of the Committee, therefore, that in an action to determine whether a defendant is entitled to the privilege established by section 109(a) and (b), the burden of proving whether a particular copy was lawfully made or aquired should rest on the defendant. [In other words, If someone accused you of violating the infringment principles of copyright law, it is up to you to prove you didn't.] 17USC, Section 501, "Copyright Infringement and Remedies." There are two provisions in the law for remedies of violation of the copyright of a person. Both are rather severe, the person who feels they have been violated may sue for actual damages or statutory damages. Actual damages include, lost sales, the profit the infringing party may have made from the infringement, and legal fees. Statutory Damages are fixed at $20,000 per infringement if I read the section correctly. This one gets a bit confusing, and is covered in 28 US Code, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure. The following web sites provide reference on copyright law: http://www.counsel.com/cyberspace/copyright.html http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/ifla/II/cpyright.htm http://genealogy.tbox.com/jog/aug96/advanced.html Contributors: Sunni Bloyd "firstname.lastname@example.org" Jett Hanna "JettPlane@aol.com" John Rigdon "JRigdon@gabn.net" Jeff Weaver "JWeaver300@AOL.COM" John G. West "email@example.com"