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Copyright lawsuits, and posting of copyrighted articles


Mr. Bill:
Okay, folks, the moderators/admins have been working on this Fair Use issue behind your backs. ;)

We're dealing with the problem on several fronts, but here's the part that affects all of you:

We don't want to be a target for copyright lawyers.  So we need for all quoted material to be compliant with Fair Use.  Please help us on this -- because if you don't, then we've got to go edit your posts, and we'll probably do a meat-axe job of it.

Fair Use is widely misunderstood.  Not meaning to pick on QuiltingB, but let me quote:

--- Quote from: QuiltingB on July 24, 2010, 12:34:49 AM ---...It's the web - I see nothing wrong with posting a newspaper's article as long as you have a direct link back to their original posting.  That is what the internet is all about.  Link-link-link. ...

--- End quote ---

This is what most people seem to think, and it is completely incorrect.

Fair Use is a legal doctrine that evolved out of US common law, and was later incorporated into the Copyright Act of 1976 using rather vague language.  Court cases have slowly established the boundaries of Fair Use.  For a whole lot of details, please see this Wikipedia article.

How does this affect posting copyrighted material on the forum?  Unfortunately we don't have any copyright legal experts among the mods/admins, but this is how we understand it:

Unless you are the copyright owner or have written permission, you may not post an entire article, nor may you post the "heart" of an article (the most important bits).  You can't get around this just by giving credit or posting a link.

There are some exceptions.  For example, you can quote copyrighted material for the purpose of criticizing it.  Also, you can always post the facts from an article in your own words, since facts cannot be copyrighted.

Note that essentially everything is copyrighted nowadays, from the moment it is created.  It doesn't matter that you can't find a (c) symbol, or that the material can be viewed for free -- it's still covered by copyright law.

If you are posting copyrighted material with permission -- e.g., you own the copyright, or the author has clearly given permission for copying -- please note this fact in large friendly letters that even a moderator can see. ;)

Please help us to not be a lawyer's target -- make sure your posted material is consistent with Fair Use principles!

Thanks. :)

Mr. Bill:
ADDENDUM:  Please remember that Fair Use applies to all copyrighted material.  This includes newsletters that you receive by mail or e-mail (such as STRATFOR).

Unless the copyright owner has clearly given permission for reprinting, please post no more than a short Fair Use excerpt (or rewrite the information in your own words).

Here are some examples of material that you can repost legally (to the best of our limited knowledge!):

Info from the government (laws, regulations, IRS instructions, official news releases).

Anything which is obviously a press release or advertisement, and intended for distribution.

Material containing a notice (e.g. a Creative Commons license) that allows reprinting (for example, Wikipedia articles).  Make sure you comply with the license requirements (for example, by including a link to the Wikipedia page you're borrowing from).

Mr. Bill:
Legal stuff reminder time!

Due to US copyright laws:
* You can't re-post a whole article here.
* You can't re-post almost a whole article except for one paragraph.
* You can't re-post just the "heart" of an article.
* You can't get around this by giving credit or posting a link.
Please scroll up to the top of this thread and review the details about Fair Use.  We don't need Jack getting a nastygram from some overexcited copyright lawyer.

This isn't just a theoretical issue.  Several years ago we lost our ability to run Google Adsense ads on the forum, because a member unintentionally linked to an illegal copy of a copyrighted article, and the copyright owner complained to Google.  We have to assume that copyright owners (or their lawyers) are continually searching the Net for infringing sites.

Thanks for helping to keep the forum safe!


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