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Re: The SSSCA considered harmful

by Your Mother (Chancellor)
on May 05, 2003 at 06:26 UTC ( #255571=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to The SSSCA considered harmful

I know this is an old thread but I noticed it and wanted to write: This is a good discussion and thank you for posting it. I don't think, however, that email makes a good example.

I am unfamiliar with case law on the topic but I believe that under US law once something is given to someone without an express contract, or understanding of quid pro quo, it is wholly owned by the recipient.

This happens with paper mail. If it didn't, I could sue an ex to return all love letters as they were my intellectual property. The ownership transfers. I know that email is probably still up in the air legally but I would argue that if I write an email to you, and we don't have an agreement on its status, I do not hold the copyright on it. You now own the content. If I have a personal letter from Ernest Hemingway, I can publish it in my own book of letters without fear from his estate attorneys.

So, while an interesting topic and I'd generally agree that the SSSCA sounds like it's riddled with problems, email may not be the best example.

update: make sure to read tilly's rebuttal. The copyright to the content stays with the author even if the physical letter (or the bits and headers, I s'pose) are owned by the recipient.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Re: The SSSCA considered harmful
by tilly (Archbishop) on May 05, 2003 at 15:13 UTC
    Neither of us are lawyers, but my amateur knowledge suggests that you are mistaken.

    Under US law the author holds copyright on anything that they write unless they don't for contractual reasons - see works for hire. However copyright is a limited form of ownership.

    For instance once you have created and sold a copy, you cannot control the further sales of that copy, or say that certain people cannot own that copy. This is why used bookstores can resell books. (Publishers tried to stop that and failed.) This also covers your ex. However if your ex decided to make copies of your personal letters and send them to friends ridiculing you, then you have a copyright claim against your ex.

    Similarly I would be shocked and astonished if mere possession of the physical article of a letter from Ernest Hemingway gave you any right to publish it in your book of letters. This runs counter to everything that I have ever heard on the topic, and before you consider doing something like that, please discuss it with a lawyer! (One of the notable early copyright cases involved the inclusions of letters from Alexander Pope without his permission.)

    See this guide on copyright, and there is a direct mention of the case of letters in this primer.

    As for the SSSCA, it is now renamed the CBDTPA, and makes half-hearted attempts to address the problems above. What they are coming up with is completely technically unworkable, but now the trick is explaining this to non-technical people who are busy and have no understanding of what the implications of their "small spec change" will be. (Gee, where have we seen this before?) At least they also have realized the potential to create a monopoly position from trying to make it work, and have addressed that. (They also no longer get support from Microsoft for the bill - fancy that.)

      Wow. Thanks for the rebuttal. I stand corrected. Now depressed by the implications. :(
Re: Re: The SSSCA considered harmful
by Anonymous Monk on May 05, 2003 at 07:46 UTC

    An optimist! In the government's actions nonetheless. Amazing, I thought they were extinct.

    The point is twofold:

    1. The bill is so vague that it could easily be interpreted in a manner that results in the above situation occuring.
    2. We're stepping onto a slippery slope which leads in this direction.

    In addition, email is something almost everyone can easily relate to. Maybe it's not perfect, but the reality is we're headed to something even more frightening than tilly suggests.

    Props to tilly for trying to raise awareness but I'm not sure individual people coming up with such email campaigns will accomplish much. Perhaps our efforts would be more effective if we focused them through major organizations such as the eff. They've been doing an excellent job speaking out against this bill. Mind you, anything is better than nothing.

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