Can you acquire any additional rights beyond copyright to your own work?


I recently ran across the following copyright notice attached to a document that purported to be a summary of historical information:

© 2002 — All Rights Reserved

Do not copy or extract data or photos, except for use in your personal research.

TERMS OF USE  You may view, download, and print material from this site only for your personal, noncommercial use. You may not post material from this site on another web site or on a computer network without express written permission. You may not transmit or distribute material from this site to others. You may not use this site or information found at this site (including the names and addresses of those who submitted information) for selling or promoting products or services, soliciting clients, or any other commercial purpose. Data herein found is not in the public domain for resell. Data is copyrighted, all rights reserved.

The word "data" is defined as facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis. First of all, you can’t copyright data. The person who created the work with this claim attached did not create the information contained in the document. In fact, much of the information was "common knowledge" and could have been obtained from a multitude of sources. Quoting from, the website of the United States Copyright Office’s statement answering the question, "What Does Copyright Protect?"

How do I protect my idea?

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

What if I were to use a short quote from the document with the long claim attached? This gets into an area of the law called the Fair Use Doctrine. Here is another quote from the website about fair use. 

Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use. 

Ultimately, what is or what is not "fair use" is decided by a U.S. Federal District Court after litigation on a claim for copyright infringement. Of course, copyright law also varies, sometimes considerably, from country to country. Most of the countries of the world are signatories to the Berne Convention adopted in 1886 and finally signed by the United States in 1988 and ratified and made into law in 1989. See For even more information see the World Intellectual Property Organization

Intellectual property law is by no means the most complicated of the various areas of the law in the United States of America. It is not nearly as complicated as immigration law or tax law, for example, but it is one of the least predictable areas of the law. 

Let’s suppose that I ignored the copyright provision set forth above and quoted a portion of the article or work in a blog post. What could the person claiming the extensive copyright coverage claim? Now we get to the real issue of all copyright violation claims. Does the person claiming copyright protection need to be harmed by the copying? No, not really. The copyright law provides for some statutory relief. Here is a short, simplistic, description of what is needed to make a copyright claim from a website called BonaLaw, Antitrust and Competition.  

The plaintiff in a copyright infringement lawsuit has the burden of proving two elements: that they own a copyright, and that the defendant infringed it.

The article goes on with a much longer qualification of the elements of a copyright infringement claim. One thing left out of this explanation is the substantial monetary cost of bringing and sustaining such a claim. Also, unless there some substantial harm is done by the copy that can be demonstrated and if only a small portion of the work was used, it will be very difficult to maintain an infringement action. 

Getting back to the quote at the beginning of this post, why does this claim go far beyond legal copyright protection in the United States? Why does the person, who is apparently interested in genealogy, stand to gain from making such a broad and partially unenforceable claim? Nothing. Since technically no one can refer to or make the article or work known in a review or even a reference, the work is essentially useless.

What if, someone copied the entire article, made a few changes, and then published it under their own name on the internet? How would the person making the claim discover the republication? You might note that that last notice of copyright was made in 2002, now almost twenty years ago. Is the originator of this work still combing the internet for pirate copies of the original document? I could go on with a lot of additional, similar questions about maintaining a copyright claim on an educational or instructional document but I would become quite repetitious. 

What about the claim I have on this post? Yes, under the provisions of the Berne Convention, this post is copyright protected. The practical reality is that I now have well over 12,000 blog posts out on the Internet and I cannot possibly police every such blog post. From a practical standpoint, when asked, I usually refer to some level of the Creative Commons Attribution

Source: Genealogy’s Star

Posted On: May 18, 2021 at 02:51PM