Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(December 1996)

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Subject: Re: Our High-Wired Copyright Concerns
From: Tim Bowden <tcbowden @ clovis . nerdnosh . org>
Organization: NERDNOSH - the story conference as cyber-community!
Date: Sat, 21 Dec 96 08:08:44 PST
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
In-reply-to: <199612211425 . JAA05865 @ panix2 . panix . com>

Vicki Richman <vicric @
 panix .
 com> writes:

> Well, my list header assigned the copyright to the sender.
> Boldly and definitively, to make a point! Despite what has
> been asserted here, I doubt that the list owner may claim
> any proprietary interest in the content of posts -- even
> with a cautionary statement to the contrary.

My reading of the Cyber Law Institute's ongoing tutorial (to which a
helpful reader here again referred me) is that the author retains
copyright unless a license to republish can be implied.  By that guide,
Nerdnosh is perfectly within her rights in performing the service
clearly set out in the charter - distributing the stories and compiling
them into archives.  Nerdnosh asserts (nor even wants) no other

Here's what has come up in the years we have been in operation.  A
writer, as happens everywhere, will become disenchanted, or he will want
to begin his own copycat list, or he will decide he wants his glorious
text either altered from our archives or deleted therefrom.  Our
position is that by the clear and present charter he has every right to
sell his story to Ploughshares should he be able, but he has no right to
alter the text in our archives.  Is that a sound stance?  I think so.

> According to the law and accepted practice, the human author
> can lose the copyright only by accepting employment or by
> signing a *written* contract and receiving compensation.

Understand, now, in this instance, we are not struggling with the author
over the continued use of his work, we only insist that the terms of his
membership in Nerdnosh be honored; the stories remain in the archives as
originally stored there.  There will be no occasion when we will attempt
to shop his story to a publisher without his agreement.

> Probably the greater legal challenge to list owners is the
> question whether an unmoderated E-mail-list is a common
> carrier. That is, may we be held liable for a violation,
> like libel or copyright infringement, by a subscriber? Or
> are we like the telephone company -- guiltless despite the
> crimes our subscribers use our facilities to commit?

> The danger in attempting to claim some proprietary interest
> in posts is that we assert responsibility for the content.

This is exactly right, to my view.  And also we assign to ourselves the
responsibility of copyright infringements, say, *on behalf* of the
author.  If Nerdnosh, for instance, asserts sole authority, then
Nerdnosh must go after Wired if one of our stories turns up there
without the author's permission.  That's one reason (though fairness is
the major consideration) it seems wise to claim only such limited right
of publication as we state clearly in the first message any new member
will see.

We are, after all, a motley crew of volunteer neighbors, not Little,

mailto:tcbowden @
 clovis .
 nerdnosh .
 org (Tim Bowden)
Proud member of NERDNOSH (tm)!
mailto:info @
 clovis .
 nerdnosh .

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