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Re: OT: Preserving Information

by Abigail-II (Bishop)
on Oct 08, 2002 at 09:35 UTC ( #203601=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to OT: Preserving Information

Republishing it without having rights for it (either because of the license, or because the copyright holder gave you permission) is IMO unethical. It's probably illegal as well, it seems a clear violation of copyright and license laws. It's certainly not very smart to do - we all rely on those laws to make "open source" work. Why give the entertainment industry ammunition for their crusade?

But making copies for you own purposes is fine. You are allowed to. But don't share without permission.


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Re: Re: OT: Preserving Information
by ignatz (Vicar) on Oct 08, 2002 at 17:47 UTC
    All of Abigail-II comments are right on the money. A good resource for this is Brad Templeton's10 Big Myths about copyright explained.

    Personally, I'm surprised that caching sites such as Google have survived legally unscathed. I find it interesting that Yahoo avoids using this feature in their Google powered results. Perhaps there will be battles on this in the future.

    For my own work in hymnology, I spend a lot of time with old publications that were once under copyright but have now gone into the public domain. I am very careful to restrict myself to editions that were published long enough ago so that they have clearly fallen into the public domain everywhere in the world. It is possible to take a public domain work, alter it, and claim copyright for the edited version (this is how critical edition publishers of music such as Henle and Wiener Urtext make their living).

      published long enough ago so that they have clearly fallen into the public domain
      Tomorrow, the Supreme Court is hearing a case that will hopefully shorten the absurdly long time it currently takes for this to happen.


        I'm on the edge of me seat on this one.

        The problem with the Bono/Mickey Mouse Copyright Act isn't so much the overly long time frame targeted to benefit corporations, but how Congress retroactively changes that time frame.

        This is a huge decision for me. I must confess that I am not particularly optimistic given the courts track record on corporate vs. individual rights over the last 200 years.

Re: Re: OT: Preserving Information
by BUU (Prior) on Oct 08, 2002 at 13:28 UTC
    What if there is no clear set publisher? Especially if the original data could be considered to be "Common Domain" in the first place, such as a thread in a bulletin board or discussion group, such as perlmonks. Look at, he is republishing it, but he is no way claiming ownership or and rights pertaining to it, he is merely providing a different interface to the same data. I agree this arguement starts to fall apart when you start to consider semi-commercial websites, ones that pay authors to write articles for them, in which case you would need to make more of an effort to attempt to contact the original author.
      If there's no clear publisher, you should assume there's a copyright holder. Why? Because that's the default. Anything that is created is copyrighted - unless it's clearly marked otherwise.

      Threads in a bulletin boards are NOT in the public domain (I do not know what "common domain" is) by default. Someone wrote them, so someone does have the copyright. That it may be hard for you to trace down the author doesn't mean the author doesn't have rights. Note also that whether or not something is copyrighted has nothing to do with commerciality. Nor does it mean that if you are "non-commercial" you suddenly have more rights. It might make a differences for the amount of damages you have to pay though if you'd lose a copyright suit though.

      As for republishing the same data with a different interface, there have been court cases against websites doing exactly that. I haven't heard of cases where the republisher won such cases, but I know of cases where the republisher lost.

      Note also that continuing to republish even after the original documents have been removed goes even a step further.

      Specially in cases where you cannot contact the original author, it is questionable that you should keep republishing the documents after they have disappeared. You do not know the reason why the documents are no longer available. Perhaps the information is stale, or outdated. Or perhaps they contain errors. Or it would actually be illegal to still publish that data.

      I see many reasons not to republish, both legally and morally. I don't see many reasons to do - you don't have an absolute right to the fruits of someone elses labour (just like noone has the rights to your labour (unless you have a contract)).


        You have a lot of good points, in fact I'm very curious about the legal ramifications of backing-up someone else's work without permission. From a legal standpoint, I think the issue seems like it could fall into a gray area, depending on the specific case, but what about the potential value to society?

        If information is available that has a positive social impact, shouldn't it be preserved? We preserve things from days gone by, works of art, books, poems, etc, for the betterment of society and to give us a better understanding of ourselves. Why does this no longer apply to today's world? I'm truly curious why this has changed in modern times (I know the direct reason is copyrights) and I wonder if it's for good or bad.

Re: Re: OT: Preserving Information
by Dog and Pony (Priest) on Oct 08, 2002 at 15:55 UTC
    How about for instance Google's cache and similar? Unethical? Illegal?

    However much this may seem like I am trying to talk back here, I am (maybe for once) not - I am sincerely curious. :) Just too tired to come up with a good way of asking.

    You have moved into a dark place.
    It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
      I don't have a problem with a pure cache - one that will check whether information is stale before serving it. But caches that don't check the backend are a gray area. Personally, I don't have a problem with them, as long as they have a reasonable expiration period (that is, if the backend data is removed or modified, the cache should reflect that after a not-to-long period). But if a cache doesn't expire documents that have disappeared, or where the expire period is unreasonably large I think they are wrong. It might have legal problems as well.


        I don't know how long Google keeps their cache, I can't find that information, but I know that I've upon occassion found sites that were gone (by some time) via their cache instead. Supposedly I guess that the cache would disappear when the site is no longer indexed, ie due to disappearance, but that is a tough one - a site might be down, when do they consider it gone? OTOH, any site owner may request that Google does not cache their site, which is somthing like an opt-out solution then I guess.

        By your definition, I guess theirs is a grey area then.

        You have moved into a dark place.
        It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
Re: Re: OT: Preserving Information
by jbeninger (Monk) on Oct 08, 2002 at 20:55 UTC
    Illegal? Quite possibly, although I doubt any trouble would come of it 99.99% ofthe time (a cease-and-desist at worst).

    But I'd be inclined to consider it "ethical", depending on the circumstances of course. Stealing a page from yesterday's New York Times would be a bad thing. Mirroring an interesting page on the rise and fall of the Obscure Empire of 1300BC, which hasn't been updated in 3 years and whose domain is about to expire - that's completely different. Chances are the author simply forgot about it - or even died. The fact that the site was allowed to expire shows the author didn't care about the information being out there, or it would have been taken down. And the information contained on said website may be very useful for a few people. At that point I'd consider it positive karma to keep the page up for posterity. Of course, it becomes an exercise in statistics to figure out how ethical it may be - Probability-Author-Would-Object vs Usefulness sort of thing.

    Of course, if you don't feel it *has* to be on the web, perhaps it would be better to simply make a personal copy. You could send it to any friends you want to see it, or mirror it on an unlinked-to website. That should fall under 'fair use' any way you look at it.

    As far as legal liability goes though, I'd predict you're 99% safe unless you ignore a request to take it down.
      Making a personal copy is fair use. Quoting in the right context is fair use as well. Sending the copy of friends make that the copy is no longer personal. You're redistributing. Then it's no longer a personal copy - and the fair use clause doesn't apply.

      Compare it with GNU software. You're allowed to do modify it any way you see fit. You don't have gave away the source to the modifications. It's your personal copy. However, as soon as you distribute it - even to someone you label as "a friend", the license kick in. It's no longer a personal copy.

      As for your example about the Obscure Empire, I don't pretent to know better than the author whether something should be preserved or not. It's a slippery slope that I'm not willing to cross. I'm worried enough already what certain industries want to do regarding to copyrights - I don't think we should join hands and break down those laws from two sides.


        I was basing the "redistribution" on the idea that you can lend a book to someone. As long as only one person's reading the content at any time, it's not copying. Of course, there's *some* copying going when dealing with computers, but only internally. In any case, the fine points of the law in a case like this are out of our hands (and probably haven't even been tried in course). But as far as ethics go, I see no problems.

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