Everything that exists on the internet is pure information. The governments of the Earth, to various extents, regulate and administer the Rights of Ownership to this information, commonly known as Copyright.
Copyright is a nebulous and complex mass of confusedly interlaced and inter-twisted laws, regulations, treaties, and lawyers; lots of lawyers. The aim of this article is to help you, and Bleeping Computer, stay as far away from these lawyers as possible.
Since Bleeping Computer is based in the United States, I will be focusing on the impact of Copyrights in the United States. Your results may vary depending on where you live. This article is not legal advice nor should it be relied upon as such; IANAL.
Section 1: What Is Copyright?
In the United States, any creative work can be Copyrighted. Books, pictures, sounds, movies computer program source code, diagrams, whatever. The only real prerequisites are that the work be original and substantial enough to be recognized as such. One cannot, for example, Copyright the word "computer" since it's neither substantial nor original. Catch phrases, mottoes, company names and the like are covered by Trademark laws and can't be Copyrighted by themselves (for example "Bleeping Computer" is a Trademark, but the phrase itself is not Copyrightable.)
The creator of such a work does not need to register the work with the Copyright Office: the work is considered protected under Copyright as soon as it is created. Registering a Copyright does, however, establish that the work was created by the author, and generally makes enforcing the Copyright much easier.
The purpose of Copyright in the United States is to encourage the creation of creative works. It accomplishes this by securing to the creator, for a limited time, exclusive rights over the use and distribution of the creative work. This was set down in the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8 and has been further reenforced by the Supreme Court.
The current "limited" duration of a Copyright, for any work created after January 1, 1978 is the life of the creator plus seventy years.
Section 2: What is "Fair Use"?
United States Code Title 17 CHAPTER 1 § 107 establishes the right of the public to use Copyrighted works in certain situations without the consent of the creator. These situations include criticism of and commentary on the work itself; news reporting; teaching, scholarship, or research. Bearing these in mind, certain considerations must also be taken for the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
You could not, for example, sell bootleg DVD's with a note attached telling people what you think of it. This would not be considered fair use. You could, however, use clips from the movie in a critique that you post on your personal website.
Section 3: How This Applies To Using Bleeping Computer
Bleeping Computer allows its members to create content through the use of its forum. This content is itself considered a creative work and is Copyrighted as a whole and individually. Each member retains their Copyrights but grants a non-exclusive, transferable, perpetual, and irrevocable license to Bleeping Computer to use it.
In addition to Bleeping Computer's Copyrights and the Copyrights of its members, we must also take care not to violate anyone else's Copyrights. It is tempting, sometimes, to simply copy and paste whole articles from other sources into a forum posting, but this is not allowed. I accordance with the "fair use" doctrine, members may post brief excerpts (the first paragraph of an article, for example) and then should provide a link to the original so that interested members may read the entire article.
A more nebulous topic is the posting of information that does not itself represent a Copyright violation but provides information on how to circumvent Digital Rights Management or Usage Restriction technologies embedded in many digital creative works (for example, DVD encryption schemes or software activation requirements.)
The Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998, among other provisions, makes it illegal to create, use, or distribute means to circumvene measures intended to control access to a Copyrighted work. This provision, while of debatable efficacy and justification, may mean that even talking about how to circumvene these restrictions is a crime. For this reason, Bleeping Computer does not allow discussion of such topics.
Section 4: Bleeping Computer's Copyrights
Even with the forums aside, Bleeping Computer represents a substantial creative work. The tutorials, databases, malware removal guides, and other resources provided by Bleeping Computer represent a significant investment of time and energy. Bleeping Computer makes these resources available to everyone via its website, but does not grant the right for anyone to copy them wholesale or to use them in a manner which prejudices Bleeping Computer's existing or anticipated rights, all of which are reserved.
Put plainly: no one is allowed to copy substantial portions of Bleeping Computer's website or republish it anywhere else. Certainly, no one is allowed to try to pass off Bleeping Computer's work as their own.
Copyright ©2009 Andrew Lambert, Some Rights Reserved
This text is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Edited by Andrew, 11 January 2011 - 07:51 PM.