Trudgill in Vocabula

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Tue Jun 17 18:27:07 UTC 2003

> Im not a lawyer, and especially not an American lawyer, but what you
> say seems reasonable. Us authors are naturally rather keen on
> copyright, of course.  On the other hand, forwarding interesting
> articles to a friend is a very common practice. The whole concept of
> an on-line journal is a new one to me. I wonder how different this is
> from taking a traditional-style journal, xeroxing a paper, and
> sending it to someone else.

Ahem, that should "XeroxTM." ;-)

Legally, there is no difference between print or electronic copyright. But
it is cheaper and mechanically easier to violate the copyright of electronic
media than print media, particularly on a large scale. Copyright holders who
use electronic media are often, therefore, a bit more touchy about the
subject than those who use print media.

Sending a copy (electronic or photocopy) of an entire article* to a friend
is a violation of copyright (albeit one that not too many copyright holders
would get worked up about). Making a copy so that you have it available both
at home and at the office is "fair use." Making a copy of an article found
in the library so you can read it at your leisure or keep as part of your
research notes is fair use. Making twenty copies and distributing them to
students in your class is not. (At least it is in the US; UK interpretation
of the fair use doctrine may be somewhat different.)

There is also an ethos among many denizens of the Internet that any
information on it is (or should be) free for the taking. People who would
never think of stealing a book (or musical CD) from a store, will happily
pirate vast amounts of electronic data. And among those who are aware of
electronic copyright concerns, many expand the doctrine of fair use beyond
all recognition. (And there is a corresponding drive among many copyright
holders to diminish "fair use" until it is nonexistant.)

* = Note "entire article." Quoting and copying passages usually falls under
fair use.

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