IP Law and Internet Idiots by Amie Gibbons

IP Law and Internet Idiots by Amie Gibbons

(Usual disclaimer, nothing in here is meant to be taken as legal advice. These are all generalities and some flair because I’m feeling dramatic today. You have a specific question, go hire a lawyer.)

*Puts the lawyer hat and melodramatic, somehow coming out like a preacher’s tone on.*

Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, I present to you a pickle, nae, a quandary. I ask of you to stop, and think before you ink.

For we have a demon amongst us and that demon’s name is ignorance. He has a big mouth, no idea what he’s talking about and no clue just how stupid the rest of us think he is.

But oh, you say, this demon is no threat for truly the village knows the idiot.

This is the quandary, for the villagers know the idiot, but this thing we call the internet has allowed the idiot to travel far beyond the walls of his humble home and spread his message far and wide.

The idiot will tell you, you can post anything from the internet to the internet and it will be righteous. I tell you, dear peoples of the internet, it is not.  For the higher law of the copyright prevails over the wisdom of the masses. He will tell you fair use will protect you, but nae, it will not, for fair use is merely a defense, and you will have to spend your precious gold proving that defense in court because it is what we call an affirmative defense, meaning once your accuser proves you did indeed violate copyright, then you must prove your defense.

And what is this defense? The idiot will say it is available to all who innocently post on the internet. And here, he leads you down a false path, for it is not. Fair use has metrics to weigh your guilt, the greatest of which is whether your use may bring you in gold. Even if it does not, it may cost the rights holder, and there, my good folk, lies their argument.

He will tell you a picture on the internet will never be traced, and this is not true.  The world of blogs is littered with horror stories of bloggers sued for using a picture that was not theirs to use.  He will tell you that you must file officially to obtain a copyright.  Oh, poor innocent of the internet, he leads you astray, for a work has the copyright as soon as it is made.

The idiot will tell you he can take a forum, a website, a domain name and it would be looked upon favorably for these things do not exist in the world of flesh and wood, and he would be wrong.  The power in the idea can not be so contained and it too is protected by the great power of IP.

The internet idiot will tell you that you can use anyone’s creation, so long as it is on the internet and not protected by this law of copy.  And he would be wrong.  For the law of trademark sits with her brother copyright, and she is a far less tangible creature.  The power she presides over lies in the name, and what is in a name, but power over the creation?

The name is not the end of this, oh no, copyright’s and trademark’s strange cousin, brother to the patent, is the trade secret, and he also wants his say.  If the power is not in the name, nor in the design, but in the utility, it is in the realm of patent and trade secret. If the power comes from the secrecy, it is under trade secret’s domain.

And he wields strange powers. He can turn a simple list of clients into gold, a recipe into an empire, and he can come down with the power of his brethren, though he is far less known.

So beware, good people of the internet, the village idiot has traveled amongst us for far too long, and his lies have spun a web in which many an innocent poster has languished.

And it has cost them much time and gold.

(Okay, got a little silly with that one, couldn’t help it. And don’t forget to check out my latest novel about silly psychic Ariana Ryder, Psycho (and Psychic) Games.)


124 thoughts on “IP Law and Internet Idiots by Amie Gibbons

  1. Good stuff. It also applies to software. I’ve had to correct colleagues who thought that code posted on the web is automatically in the public domain. Oops. Not so. More importantly, it’s not even open source unless explicitly stated.

    1. And therein is the key. If the originator/owner explicitly states it is free for the taking, go for it. Otherwise, handle with caution and restraint!

      1. With software code it can get even fuzzier than that. I know some open source projects won’t touch code that doesn’t explicitly have a license of some sort on it (BSD, GPL, etc) They have been burned before by someone SAYING that some code was “free”, but then later slapping a more restrictive license on it, making it unusable for the project’s purposes. (for an example, look at why the OpenBSD project dropped IPFilter from the tree, and created PF firewall as the new OpenBSD firewall).

        1. I usually did not use “open source.” Not so much from licensing worries – but due to the fact that most of it is a sickening mess. Of course, I only want to re-open the source only when the user needs change – not to fix yet another bug. Especially in someone else’s turgid and undocumented disaster.

          1. Yep, there is that train of thought. However, being a programmer, I’ve seen some of the code that goes into “closed source” software. It isn’t always as well written as one would expect. At least with open source, you can take a peek under the hood an have an idea if it was written badly or not. With closed source, all you have to go on is the company’s own bug fix reports.

            Personally, I use a mixture of both. Whichever makes sense for the job at hand. When tried and trusted open source that works is available, I tend to use it. Sometimes, when it makes more sense to go with a closed source application because it has better support, or is easier to admin, I go that way. For that matter, quite often people don’t even realize they are using open source software. Huge parts of Mac OS X are directly pulled from BSD. I believe part of the Windows IP network stack was at one time also borrowed from BSD, although that may just be an urban legend. I have never gone in and verified this myself.

            1. As I recall, the Windows stack was considered [EXPLETIVE DELETED]ly bad until it got that BSD infusion. How long that lasted, I don’t know.

              1. I have also heard that when the original BSD team at Berkeley got their IP stack working, they were asked how they managed it because many others were failing. They simply said “we followed spec on the white paper.” Which apparently shocked and amazed everyone.

                Those Berkeley guys were freakin wizards.

                1. If only people would do the same with the SIP protocol. Telecommunications over the internet might then almost make sense!

                2. That does depend on having specs where conformance implies interoperability. This obviously should be a requirement for any protocol spec. In practice, it’s quite a rare property. The DECnet specs have it (since it was an explicit requirement imposed on the authors). Ethernet has it. A *few* RFCs (Internet specs) have it. But I worked on one where the document editor explicitly stated that it wasn’t a goal. (That was in response to my complaint that the spec was so loose that two implementations might end up unable to talk to each other even if both did what the spec requires.)
                  Which brings me to the general point about software, open source or otherwise: it is as good as the people and design discipline applied to its creation. Whether the software is open has nothing to do with it. (But by being open, you end up with more eyes afterwards, which can help.) Read, for example, the famous paper by Dijkstra “The structure of the THE operating system”.
                  And there’s a special case: anything involved with security or cryptography needs to be open source in order to be worthy of trust. Or more precisely, published source.

                  1. “Which brings me to the general point about software, open source or otherwise: it is as good as the people and design discipline applied to its creation.”

                    I was helping to design a parser for the SIP protocol for phones. I remember, as we got close to completion, our CTO (who also happened to be someone who was influential in the creation of SIP) essentially saying about our work “hey, that’s great! Now you get to deal with all the ways phone companies have designed their phones in the name of SIP, that don’t actually adhere to the standard!”

                    As for interoperability, I can’t remember which RFC it was, but one of the things our developers liked to do at trade shows was ask competitors “Do you implement *everything* this RFC requires” and the answer is usually “yes”, but it can’t be “yes” because it outlines conflicting requirements….

                    Sigh. Silly humans! Even their engineers do things like this! And yet somehow everything still manages to work, or at least limp along…

  2. And this is why private social media sites warn people from wily-nily copying what is posted therein. Whether it is a comment, a picture, or an article, the original poster retains usage, and responsibility.

    I ran into this a while back when someone wanted to copy and save a picture of my granddaughter, to use in their own posts. Thankfully, that person readily agreed to delete it from their system.
    Otherwise, if mamabear had ran across a picture of her babybear somewhere, grandpabear would have wound up a tattered and bloody mess. I had permission to use it , but not to disseminate it to others for their useage.

    1. “On the Internet Everything Is There Forever”.

      While it’s a “different” subject that IP and the internet, a few years back somebody took pictures of David Weber’s children and posted the pictures on Baen’s Bar in the Honorverse conference.

      The person was asked to remove the pictures because “at that time” (not sure if it is currently true), David Weber didn’t mind his fans taking pictures of his children but didn’t want the pictures posted on the internet.

      IIRC the pictures were removed.

      1. yeah people used to tell me it was there forever… but i can’t find copies of the CAD objects for the ISS modules that i didn’t download from NASA two decades ago because it was like 250 mb all together, because it would ‘be there’

        1. Gone trolling for them in the internet archive yet? I’ve had good luck finding stuff there occasionally.

      2. I think the general rule is this: if it’s useful, particularly if it’s obscure, it can easily disappear (to my dismay in my informal research of “BEAM” Robotics). If it’s embarrassing, it will almost certainly last forever.

    2. I’ve run into similar. I took some photos of some brown bats for my sister. She shared them with a friend. Fine so far. A third person, who did not get the photos from me, or my sister, claims to have seen the photos. Feline was not happy. My sister is the only one to whom I have those photos. I didn’t pursue the issue only because the photos in question were not posted on a public site. (and being an amateur, I’m not sure what protections I have with the photos I take.)

      1. “I’m not sure what protections I have with the photos I take”
        Just about all the same ones a pro has.

        Amateurs (or semi-pros, or wannabe pros) have always been in a quandary. The best way to get your self into a pro status is to have people see your work. The best way for lots of people to see your work is to give it away. But, giving it away makes it really hard to not have later IP work stolen, it seems.

        1. It depends on what you mean by “protection”. You’re the copyright holder of your work, unless you did it as part of your job (in which case it belongs to the employer, unless that’s the federal government in which case it’s in the public domain). Amateur or pro, makes no difference.
          If you mean “how effectively can I *enforce* my ownership rights, that’s a different question entirely and a much harder one. It’s possible to place fingerprints or other identifying information into photos; sometimes the camera will do it, if not Photoshop can. Depending on how that’s done, it may be trivial to remove, or not so trivial. In either case it acts as an explicit “no trespassing” notice.

      2. Film camera photos, or digital photos? And if digital, did you take them somewhere to be printed out? Short of theft by the developer, or hacking your or your sister’s systems, don’t know how they could have gotten ahold of them.

        1. Digital. Sissie was delighted with the photos and wanted to show a friend, so e-mailed them. We believe that her friend sent them to the third party via e-mail.

          I know it’s going to happen, since I do share pics on fb, but still bugged me when it happened.

    3. The Boy Scouts had (not sure if it’s still in force) a policy of not posting any pictures of boys on the internet – whether a FB page or a troop webpage or even a personal webpage – without signed releases from their parents. It was intended as a protective measure for the boys (because there are very weird people out there).
      It also helped that then no one could say “hey, that’s copyright!”

      1. The Journal of Environmental History had an interesting discussion because of some photos illustrating an article on nudist camps and their role in the 1970s environmental movement. They cropped certain pictures because of 1) concerns about child porn accusations (the photos were taken in the 1950s and did not show genitalia, but still) and 2) trying to obtain identities and permissions from the people in the photos because some countries require permissions from EVERY identifiable individual in EVERY photo, even though the photos may be historic and the individuals are likely deceased.

        1. Should you get written permission? I have those photos of two of my (fully adult…) friends running around in a cloak and posing with a sword and similar, and they did give their permission for me to post them online and give my permission for anyone to use them however they want, but is that enough? I am thinking of putting them up on pixabay or similar site since they might be useful for indie fantasy writers looking for pictures they could use as parts of their covers.

          Other question might be the castle ruins where I took the pictures, but I haven’t been able to find anything which would deny using pictures taken of them even commercially, and there are lots online, also used in ways which count as commercial, and I haven’t been able to find anyone having had problems with that. As most similar sites here they are owned by Metsähallitus (the State Forest Enterprise). The more intact castles however ask for you to pay a fee if you take pictures you intend to use commercially.

          1. Technically in the US you would be best off having signed photography releases from them… don’t know about Finland.

            1. That’s the problem now, if it’s internet it’s potentially world wide, and I’d presume it might be best to go by the laws of the country where they are tightest. I presume I would be fine, but I’d not want anybody who uses my photos to get in any kind of trouble either.

              The scary thing of sites like Pixabay is that while the site gives permission to use the photos and illustrations there freely, they are put there also by individual people, and I presume there are no checks whether what they put there has been obtained legally or not, like whether the photos are their own or taken, without permission, from somebody’s blog or something similar.

          2. Were the pictures taken in private or in a public setting? At least in the US, If there is no reasonable expectation of privacy (like at a con for example), generally the photographer has the necessary rights to take the picture (and achieve copyright on it) but not necessarily the right to exploit them commercially without a release from the model(s). I would make sure you document their permission in writing so that it does count as a release. I don’t know enough about your local laws regarding a fee for an intact castle. I doubt that’s copyright but they may have created a trademark of the castle’s image, however. Once again, I don’t know enough about your local laws.

            1. With the castles here, you can take pictures of them from the outside and the use seems to be free, but when they are intact enough that there is a fee to get inside any pictures taken after you have walked through the entrance aren’t free for commercial use unless you have also paid an extra fee for that. It’s a pretty cheap one, actually, but I haven’t asked about putting the photos somewhere where others could use them. It’s possible they have never even thought about that possibility yet so maybe I should give them a heads up. I could use them on my blog or on my covers though, I did ask about the blog alternative once.

  3. This is why the only pictures that I use for my own stuff – posts, print and ebook are pictures that I have taken myself. Or a couple of times when I had permission from friends to use their pictures. (for a credit posted)
    This saves me a lot of trouble.

    1. I love “free sites” that have clear markings as to what it is clear for. “Clear for personal use” means, okay, I can make something to hang on my wall. “Clear for commercial use” is great if I want a font face for my book.

      1. Daddy, an attorney of no small standing with a wide range of experience including fraud prosecution and international contracts, always advised me to read carefully before signing. Now I had left home long before the internet became a thing for the general public, but I would think that his advise would also applies to using anything you find on the net.

        1. Oh, absolutely. But if you have a known provider of free font faces, with clear use licenses posted, properly sourced, it’s not the same as if you’re just wandering around in general. A lot of artists do use Creative Commons licensing for whatever reason (including that for some things, they’d rather be known than get the pittance of a payment.)

            1. Not only is it right, it also helps other young up and coming writers, who are going “How do you do this cover thing?” When I send ’em to go look at the front matter on other books in their genre, they usually come back with a small list of sites (fotalia, dreamstime, etc.) and longer list of cover artists/ cover designers.

              Which is awesome, because I am not a cover artist or cover designer; my strength only goes as far as knowing where to go, and how to describe what I want to the expert I’m paying.

              1. Most people put them in front matter, right before the copyright notice and the “this is a work of fiction; any resemblances to persons, places, or things living or dead is coincidence” statement

              2. I have a hard time calling a short a “book,” still…

                Kind of in two places. Legal page (forex) has “Cover art by Richard Skinner. Composed from images provided by Pixabay.com. Images licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain License. Composition © 2016 by Richard Skinner.”

                Then, in the “Author’s Note,” I have “For the cash-strapped author and publisher, free photography sites and free graphic art programs are a godsend. This cover was assembled from three absolutely fantastic photographs, generously made available on Pixabay by Beat Obrist, David Mark, and Gerhard Gellinger. Of course, what I did with their works using GIMP is entirely my fault – not theirs.”

                Being a person with a horrible memory of how and where I found an image, I maintain a small text file in my “Sources” folder for the details of each image I even think of using. Particularly since none of the sites appear to let you search by their file ID.

          1. Re “free font faces” — apart from the attached licenses, you may also want to dig into the relevant law. In the USA, there is no protection on the design of a font (the letter shapes). What is protected is the name of the font (as a trademark). This is why Windows comes with copies of Times Roman and Helvetica but under different names, and how Corel was able to ship its Draw program with a font library of hundreds of familiar faces, all with unfamiliar names (but typically cognates or puns).

    2. I like send birthday and anniversary e-cards to co-workers and fb friends. I started using my own photos to avoid any “issues”.

  4. Gotta know your shit. I know I’m in the mix along with millions of others for using photo’s and images that neither of us created. Your style is everything. Being someone else will not make you YOU.

  5. One reason why I link to the original site when I post generic pictures, just in case. I consider it a form of proper attribution, which is just good academic practice,

    1. Quick note on that, attribution is grear, but it won’t stop them from suing you. If they don’t allow it to be copied and disseminated, even if you give them credit, it’s still copyright infringement.

      1. When I use images I don’t take or make, I always look for those marked “Free for commercial use with alteration..” Always. And I avoid recognizable photos of people.

  6. Amiee: Thank you very much for writing this piece. The technicalities of law can be rather tedious, but you have found a voice in which to address some of them in amusing manner.

    1. Sorry about the two e-s in Amie. I know a two e Amie and it was typed rather automatically. My bad.

  7. The internet idiot will tell you that you cannot be prosecuted for acts which lacked criminal intent, for transgressing laws of which you were ignorant. Shouldst thee take such advice ye had best like soup, for thou shall be in it up to thine neck and shall sup with the Devil ere getting out.

    1. For just about every law on mishandling of classified information, intent is totally irrelevant. That’s why Hillary Clinton should have been indicted, tried, convicted, and sitting in the crowbar hotel for 5+ years; not running for public office where she could do it again, and even worse than before.

        1. “I assume such laws are against dissemination of non-cleared info, in which the intent in releasing it without clearance is to break the law.”

          Not really. I’m not an expert, but I believe that merely mishandling classified materials is enough to be illegal. A person doesn’t need to actually disseminate, intentionally or not, to be breaking the law.

          Sure, someone actually disseminating classified materials is WORSE than someone who mishandles those same materials without disseminating them (like by taking them home in his briefcase), but they are both illegal. Not following proper procedure puts classified materials at risk.

          Disclaimer: I learned about classified stuffs WAAAYYYY back when I was a young Marine. Email existed back then, but it wasn’t in general use yet. I admit, things may have changed, but I doubt that they have changed so much that there are no longer proper procedures for handling classified materials, And I very much doubt that those procedures have sagged to the point where the emailing of classified documents from, to, or through private servers is now considered OK.

          1. I believe the issue falls under the general header of Negligence Law: it does not matter what your intent, only that you had a positive duty to exercise care.

            Throwing a grenade into your neighbors backyard may seem a prank, but the fact you “didn’t realize it was live!” does not excuse you from the consequences. Whether or not you had any intention of driving into that playground, all you were thinking about was your sweetie gnawing in your lap is probably not a defense you want to make in court.

            Handling classified material imposes the same general requirements of care as handling explosives, operating heavy machinery or storing biochemical antagonists.

            1. Depends on the precise law. For instance, you could face murder or manslaughter charges based on the distinction.

          2. From the class i had for my clearance *mumblemumble* years ago, each act of mishandling the classified materials is a chargeable offense, and disseminating them to unauthorized persons is a separate chargeable offense.

            Having someone not cleared for classified material hand you a printout of said material is dissemination to unauthorized persons. Even your housekeeper.

            Printing said classified material on a unsecured printer is a chargeable offense, iirc. This dates back to daisy wheel printers, of course. Technically, someone can get the ribbon and red everything printed on it…

            1. I’m not sure if the guy was blowing smoke, but when I got mine they insisted that signing the form was part of being able to charge– and somehow that document evaporated, remember?

              1. It shouldn’t matter, and wouldn’t for “ordinary” citizens, that the document had been “misfiled.” Signing the document is a prerequisite of receiving clearance, ergo the document must have existed else no clearance would have been granted.

                ANY alternative argument presents circumstances worse than the negligent handling of secure material. Further, Hillary had, on multiple occasions, represented herself as having a security clearance; I am confident that such false representation would constitute a felony.

                1. ANY alternative argument presents circumstances worse than the negligent handling of secure material.

                  You mean like systemic corruption of an entire branch of the gov’t?

              2. well, my point is that Hillary’s daily outfit at this point should be the same orange jumpsuit and she should be responding to the name “Prisoner number 891472” for the next decade or so.

                1. Bare minimum.

                  I’m not holding my breath- I remeber the Clintons in the white house. (And how they were “not that bad” because they mostly screwed with people that weren’t the talking heads.)

            2. The term is spillage for any instance of finding classified material on a non classified server. Also individual pieces of non classified material combined with other non classified data can be considered classified if the aggregate data is a serious breach. This is part of the annual security training that everyone in the government should be taking that might have access to such data.

              1. I went through security clearance training once, 28 years ago. I just got told ‘classified material is supposed to stay on machines marked for handling it’

    2. “The internet idiot will tell you that you cannot be prosecuted for acts which lacked criminal intent, ”

      Which begs the question of how he got to be Director of the FBI.

      1. I like the conspiracy theories swirling around Comey’s firing. I could imagine a parallel universe where he wasn’t fired, and finished his investigations into Russian contacts. “We have found that President Trump and Staff did indeed have contact with Russians, but we have been unable to find any criminal intent; thus, no prosecutor would charge President Trump with a crime, and no House of Representatives would impeach him.”

        Is this *really* the investigator the Democrats want on Trump’s case?

        1. The delights of taunting the delusional are numerous. Scott Adams:

          The Comey Firing
          What do Bernie Sanders’ hair and CNN have in common today? They are both saying, “Comey” every time you look at them.

          The news coverage of Comey’s firing has become excellent entertainment. This is the biggest cognitive dissonance cluster bomb we’ve seen since election night. This one has everything.

          For starters, the topic is too complicated for the public, and even the pundits. That creates a situation in which we’ll all invent our own version of the movie in our heads. Where there is confusion, complexity, and emotion there is usually lots of cognitive dissonance. We got all of that.

          My cursory understanding of the topic is that Trump’s critics say he fired Comey to put a chill on the FBI’s investigation of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. This theory sort-of-almost makes sense, in a hypothetical and indirect way. I could see how taking out the top dog would make the underdogs at the FBI worry about going hard at the President. On the other hand, the people doing the actual investigation are professionals, and there would be too many witnesses if they did a bad job. So that doesn’t pass my sniff test. But I can’t rule it out, either.

          President Trump’s official reason for the Comey firing has to do with a loss of confidence over his handling of the Clinton email investigation. The beauty of that official explanation (true or not) is that it is making heads explode with Democrats and the Opposition Media. How dare President Trump fire the person we publicly demanded he fire!

          Now we have a bizarre situation in which both sides (Demcrats and Republicans) wanted Comey fired, but they had different reasons for wanting it. Democrats were upset that he might have torpedoed Hillary Clinton’s campaign by talking about the Weiner laptop discovery of additional Clinton emails close to Election Day. And Republicans hated Comey for not pursuing a criminal case against Clinton for her email server misdeeds. That’s the perfect set-up for cognitive dissonance. I’ll explain:

          Democrats and the Opposition Media reflexively oppose almost everything President Trump does. This time he gave them something they wanted, badly, but not for the reason they wanted. That’s a trigger. It forces anti-Trumpers to act angry in public that he did the thing they wanted him to do. And they are.
          [END EXCERPT]

          Pop corn before viewing this MSM Charley Foxtrot.

          1. Is this Troll Level: Grand Master?

            Mike Lee is right: Trump should make Merrick Garland the next FBI director
            Judge Merrick Garland wears glasses, speaks softly, and stands well under six feet tall. But while Obama’s former Supreme Court nominee doesn’t strike an imposing figure, Garland has a razor-sharp legal mind, one that Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wants put to use leading the FBI.

            The White House has been crowdsourcing Capitol Hill to help find a new FBI director, and on Thursday Lee tweeted that President Trump “should nominate Merrick Garland to replace James Comey.”


            When President Bill Clinton nominated Garland to a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, he was confirmed 76-23 with the support of the majority of Republicans. Senators like John McCain of Arizona, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Susan Collins of Maine voted for him to become a judge. They’d be hard pressed not to vote for him to become FBI director.

            Already one Democrat seems to have signed onto the idea. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chimed in on Twitter, writing that “Former prosecutor Merrick Garland for FBI Director is a great idea.”


            While Garland might not be quick with a piece, the judge is more than qualified to fight Trump’s war on crime. As a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration, Garland led the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombings.

            “We asked him to do that job, and he volunteered to do it because we wanted a perfect investigation, a flawless prosecution,” former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick told NPR. “We wanted no one to have any question about the way in which justice was handled in that case.”

            It was Garland, she explains, who sorted through the rubble of the bomb site “and from the chaos of an investigation that had a thousand agents, six U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local first responders and others.”

            Because of the leadership of the soft-spoken lawyer, we learned the name of terrorist Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 civilians. A workhorse who regularly clocked 18 hour days, Garland represented the government in pretrial hearings. And, according to the New York Times, he was preparing to lead the prosecution until summoned back to the Justice Department.

            [END EXCERPT]

  8. Now, of course (especially since Paul noted software), the flip side is what does the idiot say about EULAs or Software Licenses with such bold pronouncements as “Anything you post here or make using our system could be used by us without any compensation to you” or “…doesn’t really belong to you”?

  9. *pops ibuprofen* IP, copyrights, trademarks, and other stuff is such a nightmarish headache at times. Was looking at copyrighting personal images and just about gave up. There are still a lot of resources out there. One thing I learned to do though when it came to images was to put up poor quality (low-res) images so that they would look pretty on a computer. Not downloaded and printed off.

    Everything else though is good. If looking into copyright stuff. Get a lawyer. They no more about that stuff then you do guaranteed.

    1. The best primer for laypeople I’ve found is Nolo Press’s “The Copyright Handbook.” I highly recommend that anyone who wants to make income from intellectual property read it!

  10. Very OT:

    I am reading A Fatal Stain. I just finished ch. 22 with mention of a particular person… and just read the title to/of ch. 23. CARP!

    I do not feel at all guilty about the Schell’s dark, even after two Manhattans – made properly with good rye, Vya vermouth, and orange bitters.

    1. Mention of any of Sarah’s books is never off topic in this venue, although all such mentions should preferably contain an unqualified endorsement, whether implicit, explicit or both.

      1. That I am reading ch.22 and ch.23 should say that I seem to be endorsing it. That it’s book three of the refinishing and I am reading it says that I endorse the series enough to read (and buy) such. But that title… well… I admit, I’d likely be disappointed had it *not* been used, but it’s still carp-worthy. It was enough I took a break for a quick (alas, much needed – and not from the title) shower before continuing.

          1. Ox slow. Ox not (yet) read any Darkship anything. Ox did *just* finish A Fatal Stain.

            Ox expect to be at LibertyCon again this year. Probably end up with even more to-be-read books… And hopefully have a few deliveries from ACME for some folks. Details uncertain. Ox just deliver stuff.

            1. I’ll be there too. Slightly off-topic: stop by for our panel discussion on cybersecurity and cyberwarfare on Friday at 2 PM, and for my RPG in Norfolk on Saturday at 6 PM!

                    1. Be of good cheer; Chattanooga isn’t all that far from Norfolk (Virginia, anyway) and I expect to do this again next year. But you’ll need to sign up for LC31 very quickly after July 2 to guarantee yourself a spot!

  11. My cousin just had someone steal one of her personal pics and use it for their own. And then there’s the Facebook clones who keep trying to friend us . . .

  12. A bit of an opposite issue for writers – if you have a professional take your picture for things like the author’s page, back flaps, whatever – read their boilerplate contracts very carefully. Most of them give them the rights to everything – you can’t even use the picture for your own personal purposes (other than framing and hanging the prints they sell you, and some of those contracts read like ebook licenses, so even that much could theoretically be revoked), much less for business.

    1. This is one of the reasons I consider copyrights pure evil. They open the door to a *lot* of abuse of creators by distributing companies.

      1. I don’t understand your logic. W.O. mentions a case involving capitalistic acts between consenting adults. What’s evil in that? If one of the adults in question didn’t bother to read the contract, that’s his problem. If he doesn’t like the terms offered, he can go find a different provider (or learn to use a tripod and self timer).

        1. Yes, they entered a contract, but it’s an abusive contract; and with publishers and recording studios having been pretty much the only way to become successful, it gave them a lot of ability to pressure creators to give up all sorts of rights. And the publishers and recording studios had the legal muscle to enforce those contracts brutally.

          A lot of this has been alleviated by the rise of Indie publishing, and small publishing houses who can peel away creators from the big companies, but sometimes that’s at a loss of promising series that the houses have done nothing to promote, and yet won’t release the permissions back into the author’s control.

          I’m dangerously close to a rabbit-hole where I’d go into further explanation on how the evidence shows that copyright economics doesn’t help authors, and can even hurt them, but I think I had better stop here….

  13. > idiots

    “The Problem of the Internet: In the olden days you only had to deal with YOUR village idiot (and the occasional merchant idiot if you were on a trade route.) Now you have to deal with all the village idiots.”
    – wyrdbard, on the According to Hoyt blog

  14. Ah, but what about parody? Some friends and I had an idea of redoing the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ using looney tunes characters. As a parody.
    I -think- we’d be able to get away with it.

    1. You would be antagonizing two significant corporate interests (unless Warner Bros. holds title on Rocky) and even getting away with it would entail spending a lot of time and money in court.

      Although, I am now contemplating Rocky Horror starring Rocket J Squirrel and his faithful companion Bullwinkle. The part of the young couple could be played by Dudley DoRight and Nell …

      1. RES, there’s a filker named Tom Smith; I’ve posted some of his stuff. He wrote a number of songs back in the noughts using various tunes from Disney movies. “On the PC” TTTO “Under the Sea”, and he was going to put them out on CD. When he contacted Disney to arrange ASCAP royalties, they essentially told him they wouldn’t allow it, and when he pointed out that these were obviously parodies as defined by the Supreme Court, they said, “Yeah, probably, but we’re going to take you on a trip through the courts to find out, because we can afford it. Can you?”

        The Mouse is a louse.

    2. Not a lawyer disclaimer: I ain’t one.

      I would guess that while you could do a parody of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you could not use Loony Tunes characters as they are not public domain. Since Warner Brothers did parodies with the characters, that sounds more like fan-fic. Thus, how is using them to parody a movie a parody of Loony Tunes characters?

    3. Parody is under fair use. See above on fair use and try it at your own risk because defending a law suit is pricey.

      1. I was remiss in not noting that one of the characteristics of large corporations (especially those in the intellectual property businesses) is that they lawyers prepaid on staff and looking for every excuse to demonstrate they are not useless expenditures of corporate resources that could be better employed furnishing lavish perks for corporate officers paying stockholder dividends.

        Picking on the likes of you is likely to strike them as far more appealing than going up against other comparably large corporations or leaving the corporate law environment and chasing ambulancii.

        1. Hrm. Not only that, but if large corporations do *not* defend their copyright, it is my understanding that they have ceded some authority/control over the IP they own. If that is correct, then zealous pursuit of every little violation they find would be necessary to protect their investment. The bigger and better known the IP, the more thoroughly they woiuld have to search…

          I am neither a lawyer nor an owner of any vasty and important IPs. Also, I leave the reader to draw his own judgement on the wisdom of such laws as make the above necessary. Consequences, intent, some assembly required.

          1. I believe you’re confusing copyright and trademark. Trademark requires defense and regular renewal; it’s one of the reasons toy brands like Transformers or My Little Pony keep reusing the same names in line after line of toys; if not, somebody else might name their pretty pony princess Optimus Prime or their Christ-with-a-cannon transforming robot Twilight Sparkle.

            As long as the toy isn’t presented as the same character, merely the same name. Because if it did, then it would run afoul of copyright. And to save us from the horror of a public domain Mickey Mouse, THAT lasts forever.

        2. The story goes there was once a big company that decided to intimidate an outfit known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. Then they learned it’s now called 3M.

        3. Some of the large corporations have worked out specific policies for fan created materials. I must admit, however, I don’t know what Warner Brothers has done in this area. At least for Potter, they had some tolerance for fan fiction – but I don’t think that went as far as commercial use.

          I’d also recommend the discussion at
          Just remember, unless you’re an attorney, defending these issues in the real world gets very expensive quickly.

          1. With the Harry Potter stuff I suspect the Fanfic predated the studio’s licensing of the characters from their creator/owner, so facts on the ground triumphed once again.

  15. IP law. Why did it have to be IP Law.

    I had lots and lots of exposure to all of the flavors of Intellectual Property in my time in semiconductors. Really, really complicated, and often confusing, so the marketing training covered it almost every year during sales conferences and such. And even then I conducted internal snipe hunts when our company web content picked up non-licensed images that someone grabbed from the interwebs. So I got to explain it in person. Again.

    Is ITAR next?

    1. Sarah needs guest posts, why don’t you do one on that. 🙂

  16. And that is all US law, amirite?

    Buncha internet acquaintances flipped out recently over livejournal reminding them lj is Russian and Russia doesn’t do free speech, particularly on homosexuality. I know PRC doesn’t do intellectual property, as one of Mom’s jobs is to beat attribution into international student heads and every now and then one just won’t accept it and gets expelled for plagarism and makes Mom cry.
    So don’t just know your laws, know the laws of the country the server you’re posting on is located in. I think.

    1. Also applies to other things as well. If your server is hosted in Germany, you may discover that reposting things from FB and Twitter may get you in trouble if FB and Twitter in Germany don’t allow those particular topics (at the German government’s request). Not me, but a business associate had to warn US colleagues about the rules (which they ought to have known about. Le Sigh)

      Oh yes. The Dean of the University and Deans of Various Colleges within University at Flat State U have to have special meetings with ALLLL the international students and grad students about what is plagiarism in the US vs. what is standard procedure “back home.” Some pretty heavy culture collisions ensue.

      1. special meetings with ALLLL the international students and grad students about what is plagiarism in the US vs. what is standard procedure ‘back home.’

        Doesn’t that raise problems of Cultural Imposition? [/snerk]

        1. Apparently, thus far, the deans have stood firm that copying without credit (theft) is not such a core part of [non-western cultures] that it must be preserved. And since some of the students would have to explain to their governments WHY they flunked out… No problems so far.

          1. I think they know that if they let the foreign students get away with it, they’d have a large scale revolt by the native born students.

            Especially if the student honor code were being stringently enforced on everyone from the US.

    2. Re free speech: to first approximation, that does not exist in any country other than the USA. While other countries might have things that masquerade as free speech, they come with all manner of exceptions so that in practice it amounts to “you’re free to say things that are approved by Those in Power”. For example, I pointed out to the WSJ in a letter some years ago (which they printed) that the Dutch Queen stated as much in a broadcast speech. (“There is no right to offend”.)

  17. While I am rather, well, mundane (delivery ox.. not exactly the most exciting of folks, I would imagine) I seem to attract some attention of folk with cameras. Should you see me about delivering for ACME or some such, go ahead and take the picture if you so desire. If you wish to post it someplace, go ahead. Should you need my hoof on some form saying you can do that, see me when I am not “at work” and all will be most likely be quickly taken care of. Most likely, I’ll want a copy myself and ask about posting it. ACME seems to want more photos, and hasn’t had much for a few years now.

  18. I really hate that Fair Use is an affirmative defense.

    I’ve written some parody and satire that stays well within the boundaries of Fair Use. Which I know I can never do anything with, simply because the owners of the IP are litigious ***holes.

  19. Interesting note on copyright; In the 1980’s my Father (an Academic) told me that the then latest revision of copyright law had made unpublished manuscripts copyrighted in perpetuity to their creators or their heirs. Probably sounded like a swell idea to the congress critters who voted for it. It was raising merry hell in Academia because it effectively precluded the use of source material; the man who wrote a diary in 1770 isn’t alive, and it’s unlikely his heirs are traceable.

    Don’t know if and when that got fixed….

  20. I *really* think IP law is evil. Particularly patent and copyright law, but even to a certain extent trademark law. I won’t rant about it here, though, because such a rant digresses into economics and research and philosophy and who knows what else?

    I don’t particularly want to get bogged down into such digressions today.

    I *will* say, however, that reminders like this are very important. We might not be able to do much about IP law (beyond personally using licenses like MIT or Berkeley, or Creative Commons, or a technique I would like to perfect, called “Patent Pre-empting” — where I would do my best to protect patent-able patents from being patented by essentially creating a patent that isn’t filed) so it’s important to be reminded of the many ways IP can burn us, so we *need* to keep these things in mind as we create our own material.

    1. “Patent Pre-empting”

      There is the story (how true, dunno) that an attempt to patent the periscope was rejected due to its appearance in a published work. Something this Nemo feller used…

      1. Heinlein wrote about a guy who tried to patent the waterbed years after RAH described it. And I remember the story of a technique for salvaging sunken ships by filling the hold with ping pong balls. Either a patent application wasn’t filed, or was rejected, because prior art — the mention of that technique in a Donald Duck cartoon.
        Then again, lots of wacky stuff gets past the patent office, and has for decades. Consider Abraham Lincoln’s patent, which describes common Dutch technology from centuries earlier.

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