Harsh realities again

I just updated this post with another peeve.

Speaking of peeves (and this doesn’t fit under that particular post), a couple of copyright-related things that always bug me:

First, when you protect something using that legal thing that begins with “c” and ends with “right”, you have not “copywritten” the work. That’s not a verb associated with this form of legal protection. You may have registered copyright. You may have copyrighted the work (which sounds like a transitive verb that implies registration, rather than the mere act of having copyright vest in an original work by virtue of its creation). The work may be copyrighted, if you choose to use the term as an adjective.

To be a copywriter is to be a person employed writing copy. That kind of “copy” is not a “copy” as in a reproduction of the sort addressed by that legal thing that begins with “c” ; the copy written by a copywriter is the stuff that is printed or spoken in an advertisement. Assuming that “copywritten” is grammatically correct, technically you may have copywritten something, if you were writing advertising copy. And the copy that you wrote may indeed be protected by copyright. But if you’re trying to tell someone that you are reserving certain rights concerning the reproduction in whole or in part of something you created, you didn’t copywrite it and it wasn’t copywritten, it’s copyrighted or protected by copyright. Follow?

Secondly, how can there be knitters who simply can’t “do” numbers and claim to be math-phobic when it comes to a pattern, yet will abandon any concept of reading comprehension (as it relates to words) and fix on numbers in another context? I evidently wasn’t forceful enough when I wrote this article. In attempting to dismiss the fictional “10%” rule, I apparently gave some readers too much credit and assumed they’d read on to the next paragraph, where they’d understand that a mere measurement of quantity of whatever work was changed was insufficient. I’ve seen this article quoted as saying that one could apply a 10% rule. Doh.

So, I’ve made changes to this entry in Copyright for Crafters, and I’ve added another question and answer to Copyright Lite.

My theory about how this 10% rule came about is that it actually has a factual basis — it’s just grotesquely misapplied.

If you’ve been to an institutional library, in particular a school or public library, you’ve seen those signs about copyright and fair dealing (use) that are posted there, warning patrons not to photocopy too much. Many of those signs state that it’s acceptable to photocopy up to 10% of a work. These signs were probably produced by a copyright collective — the body that collects money from the library for the use of those photocopiers, and redistributes that money among its member copyright owners as compensation for non-fair dealing (use) with their copyrighted works. It was that collective that decided that 10% was a guideline to be applied in those circumstances. For example, here’s the notice of what can and can’t be copied at a university licensed by Access Copyright, a Canadian licensing agency. The notice is prefaced with “under your licence” — in other words, it’s not spelling out global rules for every work and every activity, just the rules for activities taking place at universities and colleges that are licensed by Access Copyright.

Of course, when patrons read these signs, they’re not reading for that level of accuracy. They see the 10% and conclude that copying 10% of anything, at any time, is acceptable. This type of misinformation spreads and somehow becomes a “rule” that one need only change 10% of a work to avoid infringement (although there’s a big leap between “copying 10% is acceptable” and “changing 10% is acceptable”).

Similarly, there might have been a court case at some point that did point out the quantitative differences between an infringing work and the copyrighted work. But just because a court did that doesn’t mean that a quantitative rule is in effect for assessing all acts of infringement. For example, that court might have been considering a situation where a collective agency was suing an infringer under the agency’s licence, in which case the 10% (or whatever other percentage) would be relevant, because those were the agency’s terms. But the courts have always been clear that the measure of infringement is not merely a question of percentage.

Okay, rant over.

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One Response to Harsh realities again

  1. J Strizzy says:

    Ooh, “copywritten” is one of my peeves too. As a lawyer AND as a speaker of English.