"A copyright is a right of intellectual property, whereby authors obtain, for a limited time, certain exclusive rights to their works"from the Copyright FAQ.
When I started this article I thought I could summarize the information in a kind of "Dos and Don'ts, "Right/Wrong" list but the more I read about copyright the more it looked like an impossible task.
Altough the U.S. act that protects copyright (usually taken as a standard in the Net, due to the large presence of U.S. sites) is originally from 1976 (ammended in 1994), copyright law is a very complex issue and some of its principles are still being put to the test and require interpretation by the courts, especially in the electronic media.
The truth is: the law is not wired but don't be fooled, it's not tired either. Hardly a month goes by without some sort of prosecution in the digital realm making the news (and I'm not talking about Microsoft - darn, said it!).
In my opinion, this is all so new that people are still testing the waters, so to speak. How far can I go without being caught? --another proof the Net is in its infancy. I don't know about you, but I usually test the water temperature and check the depth before plunging head down.
So what to do?
After going through a couple of sites and without any desire to get entangled in "legalese", here's a simple principle, kind of motherly advice:
If you don't know, ask.
Assume the work is copyrighted even if there's no copyright notice. And this applies to USENET news posts, e-mail, WWW pages or graphics.
By following this simple rule you'll always be on the right side of the fence. It also goes for keeping a good neighborhood in our "global village".
As a rule of thumb this should get you through 99.9% of the situations you will encounter on the Net. For the other 0.1% of cases, check the The Copyright Website or the Copyright FAQ.
Canadian information on copyright on the Net is sketchy at this moment but don't despair, help is on the way: CANCOPY, the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency for copyright clearance just launched a web site and should be a good source for consultation in a month or so. If their staff responsiveness is any indication this will be one for your bookmark list.
I couldn't find the Canadian Copyright Act (Bill?) on-line but a CIPO
(Canadian Intellectual Property Office) document contains some
generally useful rules.
Let me know if you come across any useful canadian info on copyright and I'll add the links later on to this page.
And last but not least, read the words of wisdom by a net veteran, Brad Templeton: 10 BIG MYTHS ABOUT COPYRIGHT EXPLAINED
Brain Candy: Now that you know all of that I think you should also know that several people think that copyright is wrong! True to their hack-roots, they see copyright as the fence. So instead of trying to find the right side , why not get rid of the fence?
Thanks to Laura Jantek for proofreading it.
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