Sunday, October 12, 2014
Copyright Compendium (and... Authors Beware Click-Through Contracts)
The latest (third edition) draft of the Copyright Compendium is available for public comment before the final form is released in December 2014.
Read the Copyright Compendium here: http://copyright.gov/comp3/docs/compendium-full.pdf
If so moved, having read it, leave a comment here: http://copyright.gov/comp3/comments.html
This is the section that interested me, because I worry about websites and blogs that appear to be legitimate, that post copyright notices in their footers, but that display copyrighted ebooks either for reading on the site or for download, and that claim immunity because the ebooks are "User Generated Content" or "Uploaded by Authors" or "Uploaded by Users".
Some of these sites, like certain auction site vendors, claim that collections of ebooks written by popular (and not-so popular) modern-day authors are their own, unique and copyrightable compilation, like a "playlist" because of the way the ebooks are sorted and grouped. Or, like torrents that collect together a few hundred "paranormal romances", for instance, on the assumption that no individual author of one of the hundred ebooks can claim ownership of the torrent.
Does this Compendium protect them?
Here's a small passage from a legal blog that caught my interest;
The new Compendium confirms that website users are “authors” of their original user-generated content (UGC) for copyright purposes. Therefore, to obtain ownership of the copyright in the UGC, a website needs a signed agreement that transfers the user’s rights and, therefore, should include an assignment provision in its “click through” terms of service. If the website owner desires to file an application to register that UGC, it must name the authors in the application and maintain records of the authors who transferred ownership rights
Find the article here on Lexology (a very informative site for pro-copyright activists and lawyers):
Scribd used to call its uploaders "authors", even when they were obviously copyright infringers uploading unauthorized copies of copyrighted works to the site. Last time I looked, it seemed to me that many of the allegedly illegally uploaded "documents" that are scans of e-books and of paperbacks remain available and monetized by Scribd as orphan works after the allegedly piratical original uploaders apparently have been removed as members.
If a click-through contract might confer copyright to the website, I think that copyright owners should be particularly wary of clicking "I Agree" when visiting any website.
From what I've seen, many pirate sites will not permit copyright owners to see the site or use the Search feature of a site unless they register and agree to the terms and conditions. Often, by agreeing to those terms, the new registrant agrees not to use anything they find on the site to sue the site (that is a simplification, but what a potential Catch-22).
What if a copyright owner clicks-through in order to discover whether some other user has uploaded that copyright owner's works to the site? What if the act of clicking "I Agree" then grants permission for the site to continue in what was previously piracy?
According to this Compendium, a website cannot copyright User Generated Content without naming the author, so uploader "aliendjinnromancefangirl123" cannot be listed on a copyright application.
Will sites keep a record of what "aliendjinnromancefangirl123" uploaded and gave them implicit permission to share? What happens if Rowena Beaumont Cherry foolishly "Agrees" to their contract, uploads nothing, but under the wording of the contract, trasnsferred ownership rights to Rowena Cherry content that had been uploaded by someone else?
Color me paranoid, I guess. What do you think?