- Is there sufficient creative content in cataloging records to make them eligible for copyright protection?
- Why is it okay for people to use quotes from others in their e-mail signature lines? Is it because quotes are brief, and not a full representation of someone's work?
- From an institutional point of view, should universities encourage faculty to register their copyrighted works?
- How can an author modify copyright transfer agreements with journal publishers to reserve some individual rights? What sorts of changes are most often needed?
- If a scholar translates an ancient Greek or Roman work, or one from the Renaissance, are there any copyright issues?
- When does the estate of the author come into the picture for the expiration of copyrights?
- How are international publications covered under U.S. law? Are they protected?
Is there sufficient creative content in cataloging records to make them eligible for copyright protection?
Unfortunately, no. This is not to say that catalogers are not incredibly creative in what they do! But for copyright law purposes, a work must be original, and originality requires that the work originate with the creator (i.e., not be copied from someone else), and have a least a bit of creativity. Some works are simply excluded from copyright protection according to section 102(b) of the Copyright Act. Ineligible works include concepts, systems, procedures, principles, or discoveries, no matter how they are explained, illustrated, or embodied in a work. Cataloging records consist almost entirely of facts, and facts are not copyrightable. So, cataloging records themselves are not copyrightable. A collection of such records may be copyrightable as a compilation, however.
The same is true for metadata, the term often used when the record is electronic. A metadata record may be described as a set of attributes, or elements, necessary to describe the resource in question, such as records that describe a book or other item. Examples of metadata records are author, title, date of creation or publication, subject coverage, and the call number specifying location of the item on the shelf. Metadata in libraries typically consists of facts, and facts are not copyrightable. A compilation of metadata records could be copyrightable as a compilation if the compilation contains sufficient originality, such as section of items, indexing, arrangement, and organization.
Why is it okay for people to use quotes from others in their e-mail signature lines? Is it because quotes are brief, and not a full representation of someone's work?
Whether it is "okay" to use a quote in a signature line may depend on more than copyright law. For example, there may be institutional or company policies that prohibit attaching quotations to an e-mail signature. Additionally, the user of a quotation should cite the source so there is no issue of plagiarism.
For copyright purposes, short phrases are not copyrightable according to section 102(b) of the Copyright Act. Usually, however, a quotation comes from a longer work. If the work is in the public domain, use of the quotation is no problem, of course. If it comes from a copyrighted work, one would apply the four fair use factorspurpose and character of the use, nature of the copyrighted work, amount and substantiality used, and market effectto determine whether use of the quotation is permissible; the third factor, the amount and substantiality used, is the most critical. So, a one-sentence quotation from a longer work likely is fair use. A one-sentence quotation from a four-line poem may not be, however.
From an institutional point of view, should universities encourage faculty to register their copyrighted works?
This question assumes that the institution has some interest in the faculty member's copyrighted works. Only the copyright owner can register the copyright; if it is the institution that owns the copyright in the work, then only the university may register it. Registration of the work gives the owner the ability to file suit in federal court, as well as access to certain remedies. If the faculty member owns the copyright, then why the university should care about registration is unclear, other than wanting its faculty members to be able to enforce their rights.
How can an author modify copyright transfer agreements with journal publishers to reserve some individual rights? What sorts of changes are most often needed?
It depends on the exact language of the publisher's transfer agreement, of course. At a minimum, the publisher will need the reproduction and distribution rights to publish the work in its journal. Other rights depend on what the author actually envisions doing with the work. In general look for: (1) the right to reuse the article in a later work (such as a chapter in a book the author will write), (2) the right to reproduce copies of the work for distribution to classes or post in course management software, (3) the right to reproduce and distribute a limited number of copies to professional colleagues, (4) the right to post the article on the author's home page after the article appears in the print publication, and (5) the general electronic rights. Does the author wish to grant all other electronic rights to the publisher or retain them? What the author wants also may depend on the work itself, as well as any uses the author contemplates.
The "how to" is easy. The author should just mark out undesirable terms and write in new ones. The publisher may or may not be willing to negotiate terms, but it is certainly worth a try!
If a scholar translates an ancient Greek or Roman work, or one from the Renaissance, are there any copyright issues?
A translation is a derivative work, and authors of copyrighted works own the right to prepare derivative works. The works mentioned, however, are in the public domain, so creating the translation without permission does not infringe. In fact, the translator may claim copyright in the translation of the work. The copyright in the translation makes the copying of that translation actionable as infringement, but since the original work is in the public domain, it does not prevent others from also translating the same work and publishing another translation.
When does the estate of the author come into the picture for the expiration of copyrights?
The term of copyright is tied to the death of the author and expires 70 years after the author's death. Copyrights are property, and after the death of the author, copyrights pass through the author's will to whoever is designated as the beneficiary. Should the author die intestate (without a will) then copyright passes to the author's heirs as governed by the laws of the state where the author is domiciled. The Copyright Act of 1976 intended that the copyright exist not only for the life of the author but also for two generations of heirs. Whether the author, a beneficiary of the will, or an heir owns the copyright, the term remains the same and is measured by the life of the author, not by the life of subsequent owners of the copyright.
In taking care to reproduce the copyright notice as now required, a library has encountered the following statement several times. "All rights reserved. This book is protected by copyright. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including photocopying, or utilized by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the copyright owner." Does this mean no copies whatsoever, or does fair use apply, regardless of this statement?
The good news is that librarians may ignore those restrictive warnings; they have no effect unless the library signed a license agreement accepting those terms when it acquired the work. The library may still reproduce the work, not only under fair use but also under the section 108 library exceptions.
How are international publications covered under U.S. law? Are they protected?
The first determination is what is meant by "international publications"? Are these publications by international organizations such as the United Nations, or are they works published in a foreign country? If the work is published by the United Nations, any of its agencies, or the Organization of American States, it is protected under U.S. copyright law according to section 104(b)(5) of the Copyright Act. Works by other international organizations are not subject to U.S. copyright.
Foreign works are protected under U.S. copyright if they are published in a country that is a party to a copyright treaty to which the United States is a signatory. (See section 104(b)(2) of the Copyright Act.) This would include all of the signatory countries to the Berne Convention or any bilateral or multilateral treaty to which the United
States is a party. Additionally, under section 104(b)(6), the President may by proclamation extend U.S. copyright to works published in another country if that nation extends copyright to U.S. authors on virtually the same basis as that nation extends to its own authors.