copy permission and copyfraud


Judging from reaction to our posts this week on fair use, there’s a lot of interest out there in the contours of copyright protections and of the rights to repoduce materials found on the internet and in print.  Here are additional resources that continue those themes:


black check will by posting a podcast today (Oct. 28, 2006), with a transcript already available at its Podcast Weblog, entitled “Blogs, Websites & Podcasts: When Do You Need Permission?.”   It is an interview with Rich Stim, author of the Nolo book Getting Permission and an expert on copyright and fair use.   The interview examines “what happens if you use other people’s material in your business ”  It focuses on when and how to seek permission, but also mentions when you do not need permission — i.e., with public domain materials and when making Fair Use.  The transcript includes a link to an Interview Release Form and Explanation.   Also,‘s Copyright resouces center has an article on When Copying Is Okay, and has links to books such as The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know, by Stephen Fishman.

writing   Prof. Jason Mazzone of Brooklyn Law School has been focusing on another important area: Copyfraud: falsely claiming copyright over materials that are in the public domain. Mazzone’s Legal Times article “Too Quick to Copyright: Companies cheat the law and the public by claiming ownership over too much stuff” (Nov. 17, 2003, 2 pp pdf.) gives a good summary of what the problem is and how legislature could solve it.  In June 2006, he expanded the analysis greatly with the law review article Copyfraud, 81 NYULRev. 1026 (2006), which is availalble to download from SSRN (Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper #40).  Here are excerpts from the Abstract” 
“Copyfraud is everywhere. [even appearing on modern reprints of Shakespeare’s plays and the U.S. Constitution] . . . . These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner’s permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use.

” . . . . There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.

“Congress should amend the Copyright Act to allow private parties to bring civil causes of action for false copyright claims. Courts should extend the availability of the copyright misuse defense to prevent copyright owners from enforcing an otherwise valid copyright if they have engaged in past copyfraud.  . .”    

——  You can find more on the doctrine of Copyright Misuse, in “The Evolving Doctrine of Copyright Misuse,” by Brett M. Frischmann and Daniel Moylan (July 2006, available at SSRN; via Andrew Raff at IPTABlog). Raizel at LawLibrary Blog has a lengthy and informative article on copyfraud involving Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit (“A Cautionary Tail,” March 15, 2006).  Mary Minow’s offers a comprehensive list of resources on Copyright and Libraries, that many outside of libraries will also find helpful.  It links, for example, to Peter B. Hirtle’s chart Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.


  1. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » our self-help link collections from 2006

    January 6, 2007 @ 3:55 pm


    […] copy permission and copyfraud  […]

  2. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » two cents and more for a Monday morning

    February 26, 2007 @ 12:25 pm


    […] If the House Republican Study Committee spent a few minutes studying shlep  (e.g., see ”copy permission and copyfraud” and “fair use and copyright“), it wouldn’t have falsely accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “pirating” 16 clips of House floor debate that had appeared on C-Span, when she included them on her weblog The Gavel.   See today’s New York Times, “Which Videos Are Protected? Lawmakers Get a Lesson,” Feb. 26, 2007.  Although NYT says that member of Congress are “learning the complexities of copyright law, much the way the casual YouTube user has learned,” the relevant point here is really not all that complex: “works” made by the federal government (such as shots taken by House cameras on the floor) are in the public domain.  On the other hand, C-Span asserts its copyright over materials shot by its own cameras at other congressional functions.  If the Study Committee needs a bit of fast cribbing, it might try either the podcast or transcript of’s piece “Blogs, Websites and Podcasts: When Do You Need Permission?”   […]

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