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  1. #1
    SitePoint Evangelist AlienDev's Avatar
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    Copyright of copywritten materials

    Off Topic:

    Yay, first post in a shiny new forum!


    Assuming the copyright of an article is not discussed in the contract, who owns the copyright? I have a problem just now where I wrote an article for someone, before I write the other 4 articles it turns out the guy is just messing me around.

    So now I dont know whether or not I am allowed to force him to take the article off his website or not.


  2. #2
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    IANAL (I am not a lawyer)

    Your own the copyright to your work unless you have signed a document that transfers the license to your client. If you are going to be writing articles for sale, it will serve you well to read up on the ins and outs of copyright.

    Although the law is difficult to interpret, you can get a good handle on your rights at sites like Copyscape and the US Government Copyright site.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Bleys's Avatar
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    In the US, at least, as I understand the law, the act of creation is what creates the copyright. So if you write it, you own it until you sign the rights over to someone else. But I'll IANAL that one as well.
    Josh is an anomaly
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  4. #4
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    The exception in most western countries is where you are working as an employee of someone else at the time you create it in which case you are considered to have created in on behalf of the employer who therefore owns the copyright rather than you. Most other situations where you are creating something for someone else there should be a contract stating who owns what rights to it.
    Stephen J Chapman

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  5. #5
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    Did you sign a "work for hire" agreement with the guy?
    Bring out our hope and reason, before we pine away.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot gregorious's Avatar
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    I am not a lawyer; but I do have some experience with copyright law and trademark law.

    Copyright begin at the moment of creation; at minimum, there are two requirements.

    1) the work must possess an element of creativity. Alphabetically and numerically arranged lists are not creative therefore not protected by copyright – the lists lack creativity expression.

    2) the creative work must be fixed in a tangible medium. A typical conversation is not copyright protected because the spoken words are “transitory” – not fixed – the words have not been written or recorded – so no copyright.

    More on the subject at this URL
    http://www.forthosewhowait.com/pricing/copyrights.htm

    "Work made for hire" (WMFH) is an exception that was written into the law. Initially, copyrights are vested with the author of the creative work; but "work for hire" was written as an exception.

    There are exceptions to this exception. ([IANAL] although I can talk like a lawyer sometimes).

    This first criteria of WMFH is the "employee" must be working within the scope of their employment. For example, an burger flipper that slaves over a grill at work - who happens to be an artist - creates an illustration of fast food that the owner of the restaurant wants to use a calendar art.

    Creating artwork is not within the scope of employment for the burger flipper. So the owner needs to negoetiate for a license or a right.
    G. Armento - Design, Multimedia, Illustration, Photography
    -------------------------------------------------------
    www.communications-by-design.com

  7. #7
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    I rarely work with written contracts. I was advised that under UK common law the verbal contract to provide copy for a particular company in return for payment implies the transfer of copyright. As US common law is very similar to the UK's, I imagine it's the same over there. Even big corps in the US and UK often don't bother with copyright contracts - and they're really hot on other legal stuff. NDAs are far more common.

    Anyhow, in most cases the sales copy for a particular firm's product is worthless for me to retain the ownership of. Plus, 99&#37; of copy is ephemeral, so it's never going to be a big deal. I don't think I've ever heard of a case where a freelance copywriter has contested the ownership of copy once the contract has been completed and paid for. However, if you're in doubt, check with a lawyer.
    Check out my copywriting blog at www.billhilton.biz!

  8. #8
    SitePoint Zealot gregorious's Avatar
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    copyright is separate from ownership of work itself

    In the U.S., Copyright Law is the strictly U.S. Federal law (United States Code Title 17, Copyrights.) not State law or common law.

    The Copyright Act of 1976 was a major revision of the copyright laws in America; State copyright laws were preempted (declared invalid), and works created after 1977 were afforded Federal copyright protection.

    The 1976 law also established that ownership of a copyright is separate and distinct from ownership of the material object. Possession of the work does not mean ownership of any copyrights.
    G. Armento - Design, Multimedia, Illustration, Photography
    -------------------------------------------------------
    www.communications-by-design.com

  9. #9
    SitePoint Zealot gregorious's Avatar
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    Work made for hire...

    U.S.C. Title 17, Copyright; Section 101 definitions is at the heart of copyright laws. Below is a quote from the definition of a Work Made For Hire (WMFH).

    A “work made for hire” is —

    (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or

    (2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. For the purpose of the foregoing sentence, a “supplementary work” is a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes, and an “instructional text” is a literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities.
    Congress... the ultimate deisgn committee.

    As you can see, the WMFH exception has two provisions for two different purposes. The first being and employee; the second provision is the subject of contract work.

    I could write a book.
    G. Armento - Design, Multimedia, Illustration, Photography
    -------------------------------------------------------
    www.communications-by-design.com

  10. #10
    SitePoint Zealot gregorious's Avatar
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    Copyrights and the Supreme Court rulings

    There are a couple of Supreme Court rulings on copyrights that are very interesting; the "syllabus" covers the courts opinion in brief. (For those who don't know; to reach the Supreme Court there is usually a U.S. District Court ruling, then an Appellate Court ruling, and then a Supreme Court ruling.)

    CCNV vs. Reid (1989) - The court examines the "work made for hire" provision. In a unamious decision, the Court decided that Reid (sculptor) did not perform a WMFH.

    FIEST PUBLICATIONS vs. RURAL TELEPHONE SERVICE (1991) - Rural provided telephone service to parts of Kansas, and Fiest wanted to publish a phonebook for the same area. Rural refused a license, so Fiest copied their phone listings without a license and sold their own advertisements. The Supreme Court held that Rural's phone listing were not copyrightable (due to a lack of creativity - nothing creative about alphabetical lisitngs).

    CAMPBELL aka SKYYWALKER vs ACUFF-ROSE MUSIC (1994) - The music group "2 Live Crew" (Luthur Campbell) created a song "Pretty Woman" that was substantially similar to Roy Orbinson's "Oh, Pretty Woman". This case examines the "fair-use" provision of the copyright law.
    Last edited by gregorious; Apr 4, 2007 at 12:00. Reason: added links
    G. Armento - Design, Multimedia, Illustration, Photography
    -------------------------------------------------------
    www.communications-by-design.com


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