March 09, 2005

Copyrighted E-mails?

In yet another confrontation between bloggers and mainstream media involving copyrights and lawsuit threats, Don Luskin is in a bit of a fight regarding the publisher of Paul Krugman's textbook. I'm not up to snuff on the story itself, but I wanted to comment on a particular part.

It seems that a lawyer wrote the blogger and called copyright infringement for the e-mail. I'm not familiar enough with the story to say for certain, but I think it's easy enough to trot out some simple rules - against which both current and future e-mail copyright threats can be judged.

If you aren't including any copyrighted material in the e-mail - ranging from book or other work excerpts to materials that are commonly copyrighted and protected like essays or books - then you cannot conceivably claim copyright infringement if somebody posts that e-mail. The worse they can be accused of is gossiping.

There are some gray ideas, like if you wrote a 2,000 word essay that you plan to have published and then included in the body of the e-mail for comments, would it be copyright infringement to spread it around? I dunno, I'm not a copyright attorney.

But at least it's pretty clear that simple communication from one party to another implies a loss of ownership of the physical letter or the actual bits of information; if you mail a letter then the print, stamp and paper belong to the receiver, and if you send an e-mail then the bits and raw data of the e-mail belong to the receiver. It's essentially a gift.

Now, I am not a lawyer and certainly not up to date on all the intricacies of modern copyright law. Don't operate on the veracity of this advice. However, I can't imagine an e-mail being copyrighted without some obvious notation like (c) or without some material like a book or music that commonly is copyrighted. What a stupid threat.

Lawyers ought to stop threatening bloggers with lawsuits like we're 12-year-olds that'll crumple on the first harsh word from an adult. Pathetic.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Ed said...

Lawyers ought to stop threatening bloggers with lawsuits like we're 12-year-olds that'll crumple on the first harsh word from an adult. Pathetic.That's exactly what it is. That's what they're used to dealing with on the Internet. They haven't figured out yet the sort of support net that the blogosphere has created for itself.

March 10, 2005 12:19 AM  

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