Thursday, December 15, 2011

Copyright for the 21st Century

Readers of my blog know that I occasionally poke fun, or wickedly sharp needles, at some of the actions taken in the name copyright and trademark. For example, I went to purchase a circular knitting needle a few weeks ago, and noticed that underneath the KnitPicks logo, was the following statement:

The color purple is a trademark of Crafts Americana Group, Inc.

I sent this information off to TechDirt, inquiring how anyone could trademark a color, especially a color as ambiguous as "purple." A lively discussion ensued. A week or so later, someone else pointed out that Cadbury has also trademarked the color purple. Another lively discussion ensued. It doesn't matter whether the companies involved in this silliness were granted trademarks or even applied for them (no and yes), the point is, trademarking colors can be considered a form of restraint of trade, even if it only applies to a candy wrapper, which is apparently how the British Courts ruled for Cadbury.

As far as I know, there are only, what, six main colors, generally known as red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and violet. Let's throw black and white in there and make it eight colors. That means, if candy Company A trademarks red, and Company B trademarks orange, and so on, then Company I has no color they can make their candy wrapper. What do they do? Sell the stuff in a transparent wrapper? Then sure as I am typing here, someone will trademark see-through candy bar wrappers, and then Company J will have to sell their candy naked. Or spend millions of dollars and years in court arguing that Peach isn't Orange.

I could go on and on about the actual color, as KnitPicks needle cables are technically red-violet, not purple. Suppose I want to market knitting needles with lavender cables? Is this purple or pale violet? KnitPicks didn't limit their color trademark to knitting needles either, the way Cadbury did for candy bars. So purple yarn is a trademark violation? Is Barney the Purple Dinosaur going to present a legal hassle for his owner?

And if KnitPicks trademarked the color purple, should Alice Walker, the author of the book, The Color Purple, take legal action? Book titles cannot be copyrighted--there are only so many ways you can say Introduction to Biochemistry, and that's been through the courts. But what if she wants to take out a trademark on, say, purple toothpicks with that slogan engraved on them?

In sum, the entire grabby mentality that pervades business these days is disheartening, not to mention stifling. This is not to say that you shouldn't take appropriate measures to protect your intellectual property, but it seems that companies are spending most of their time and money litigating instead of innovating. And we all know what happens when laws become too stringent--people just ignore them. Or they stage a revolt.

So, when I turned my attention to the front matter of my book, having tired of investigating the spinability of cow hair, I took some volumes off the shelf and looked at their copyright pages. No, no, and more no. I am not going to wander those narrow little roads. Instead, I wrote my own copyright statement, which I hope will provide a broad avenue for everyone who might wish to take a stroll through my book. 

Human Copyright for the 21st Century

With the exception of a few pictures that are in the public domain, almost everything in this book is under copyright. When something is copyrighted, it means that it belongs to someone else. In this instance, unless specifically acknowledged otherwise, all the words and images are under copyright by me, the author. However, it’s my firm belief that information is meant to be shared, not bound by legal stricture. I really resent blanket copyright declarations that forbid the readers from using or reformatting the knowledge in any meaningful way. Thus, I’ve devised my very own copyright permission page that spells out what you, the reader, may do with the contents herein.

You may scan, print, copy, or otherwise convert the contents to other formats in any way you wish, as long as your purpose is entirely personal. You can, for example, make backup copies of the DVD; output the contents to your printer; transfer the DVD to your hard drive; or paint excerpts on the back of your pet gerbil. You need no permission from me to do so. These permissions do not extend to making copies of this work, or any substantial part thereof, for your friends. If you are wondering about the word “substantial,” and how it might apply to what you want to do, please contact me directly and we’ll discuss it.
You may share an excerpt for non-commercial purposes, for example, to help a friend; incorporate into a blog post; or contribute to a private group; without my express permission. Please do assign credit, however. The credit line should read: Photo/text/video courtesy of Susan Stevens, used with permission. In the cases where the photos or text are the property of someone else, you will need to contact them directly to arrange permissions. 

You may not share any part of this book for commercial purposes without permission and remuneration. This does not mean you many not share the information in the book. It does mean that, if you are teaching a class and printing copies of the contents, I expect some form of payment as well as credit, because in these instances, I am the teacher standing behind you as you instruct the class. A Starbuck gift card, an Amazon credit, or a small donation to Paypal is not too much to ask, considering the time that I’ve spent assembling this missive. Again, in the cases where the photos or text are the property of someone else, you will need to contact them directly to arrange terms. 

If you are an ongoing commercial enterprise, for example, a magazine, other arrangements will have to be made. In these cases, I expect fair payment commensurate with your other contributors.  Please pm my Ravelry name, fleegle, or email me at xxx to discuss terms and conditions. 

There are no reserved foreign rights. We are all of one world, thanks to the Internet. 

I have made arrangements for this book to be put into the public domain after my death for use by anyone and everyone under all circumstances. I refuse to sequester the information in the name of copyright when I am no longer around to benefit from it. 

Although this copyright page is copyrighted (see Department of Redundancy Department), I herein give express permission for it to be reused in any format by anyone who shares the same information philosophy I do. If you intend to use this page as an example of How Not to Write a Copyright Statement, the reprint and excerpt fee is One Million US Dollars. And I will pursue you legally if I find out about it.