> Let's not take at face value whatever some lawyer may advise some
> corporation to write on the bottom of a text.
I've been making a bit of a collection of the lunatic fantasies
paranoid companies are putting at the bottoms of their emails. E.g.:
"CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: All information contained herein is for the
exclusive and confidential use of the intended recipient. If you are
not the intended recipient, please do not read, distribute or take
action in reliance upon this message. If you have received this
message in error, please notify the sender immediately and promptly
delete this message and its attachments from your computer system."
Don't you love it? "don't _read_." It's at the _bottom of the
message_! Doh! And company lawyers, in general, know even less about
copyright and fair use than they do about email. (Dilbert: "no
strategy is so risk-free that the legal department can't kill it.")
> There are laws , regulations, and institutions allowing reproduction
> of various sorts. Courseware is not plagiarism (in fact, it is gov't
> regulated); neither is making a single photocopy for scholarly
> purposes, nor quoting a short passage from a longer text (rule of
> thumb: under 100 words, I think).
Actually, the real issue is whether there's money to be made. I was
just reminded, during spring cleaning, of my favorite copyright story.
Ten year ago someone wanted to reprint an article of mine that was
printed in a Heinemann book. I was happy, of course, since the whole
point of writing and publishing the article was so that people would
have a chance to read it. But the editor wrote back a bit later (I
happen to have the letter in front of me): "I received some very
discouraging news from Heinemann. They want $25 a page for your
chapter. At 13 pages, that's $325 -- one third of my entire
The article didn't, of course, get reprinted. But I immediately put it
on my Web site. How much of the $325 would I have got? And did I want
Since then I've done the same with everything else I publish that I
have as a file (and as I get things scanned that I've lost the
electronic versions of, that too). And occasional articles by other
people, giving them, if I can, a chance to veto it. Copyright, in
general, is a stupid idea -- unless you're Walt Disney, of course.
And one more thing, while I'm in rant mode: Copyright has _nothing to
do_ with plagiarism. Nothing. They are separate issues. Turnitin.com
used to have, on their main Web site, some legal bafflegab designed to
confuse the two, so they could suggest that students ran the risk of
being dragged off in cuffs, but they've now taken it down.
Department of English
St. Thomas University
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