Usenet and Intellectual Property
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Posted by Carol James on September 27, 2000 at 23:20:13:
To make a very long story short, recently it came to my attention that Usenet isn't covered under copyright law similar to that which governs websites. To clarify that, I mean that no precedent has been set (as far as I know) that lets people know that Usenet posts have the same rights as other literary/artistic works or other kinds of intellectual property. . .
If a case was pressed where one sued a company (Remarq before the recent merger or Deja, or any number of other web-based accesses to Usenet groups) for use of ones literary/artistic work that was posted to Usenet (but not through a web-based service), is it likely that in this current state of having no (to the best of my knowledge) precedent over Usenet copyrights and third-party use of posts, that the law would uphold the individuals rights to their Usenet postings?
Generally posting to Usenet is considered a form of self-publishing (or at least this is what major publishers believe when it comes to submitting to them work previously posted to Usenet in whole or in part - they will only consider buying re-print rights). If that is the case, then wouldn't Usenet postings have all the protection that print published works have? If that is the case, then websites like Deja that make their money by re-publishing works from Usenet on their site (websites are another from of self-publishing, further when one posts to Usenet they haven't granted distribution to the web) are infringing on copyrights are they not?
Last I saw (during the recent issue about Deja turning words in the test of posts into links to product pages) Deja believes they can archive/re-publish Usenet postings because they have an 'opt-out' of sorts. If you don't want Deja to use your works you can use an "x-no-archive: yes" header in your post. But, the problem (IMO) with that is that first you need to know that Deja is archiving the posts, and further that the opt-out exists. In the case of a post being intellectual property, isn't having this sort of an opt-out like having someone walk into your home, leave with your TV and then later say something to you to the effect of "you didn't have a note on your door saying I couldn't take the TV"? Deja stated recently (I can cite the article if you'd like) that they believe they have "tacit permission" to archive and use posts where people failed to use the available opt-out.
Generally, this opt-out is respected by more companies then just Deja, but I've heard that there are companies and University archives that fail to heed the opt-out consistently if at all. This renders it useless and IMO means that there really is no way of opting out of having your posts used in some fashion by a company/organization (in other words, used for more then just the standard 'one copy for personal non-profit use').
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, esp. if you know of any applicable cases I should look into.
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