Court Says CD-ROMs Of Magazine Archives Don't Violate Copyrights Of Article Authors
from the phew dept
There have been a series of lawsuits over the years concerning whether or not magazines could create CD-ROM archives of their magazines without having to pay all their freelance authors again. The court rulings have been mixed, to say the least — with some ruling one way, and others ruling the other. The end result was some rather twisted logic that suggested magazine publishers could republish magazines via CD-ROM, but only if they did so in an incredibly annoying fashion.
Why? The reasoning shows the twisted impact of copyright law, but here we go: basically, if the CD-ROM is just a very limited reproduction of the magazines without any additional features (search being a key one), then it’s okay. As soon as you add in anything useful that a digital version would allow (like search), then suddenly it changes the nature of the work, and it somehow violates the copyright of the writers. Bizarre? Indeed.
Luckily, however, in one of the ongoing cases, a full appeals court rehearing has reversed an earlier ruling, pointing out just how ridiculous this interpretation is. So, at least in this circuit, publishing a CD-ROM archive (even one with a search engine) appears not to violate the copyright of freelancers. However, as that article notes, what’s truly scary is reading through the dissent by the judge who insists that the inclusion of that search engine really does change the very nature of the work, and who controls the copyright. Where it reaches the level of the truly absurd, however (as pointed out in the link above), is where one of the dissenting judges actually suggests that not allowing these archives to go forward wouldn’t impact the historical archives of this content, because magazine publishers could just store archives that would only be available to be “utilized primarily by researchers and scholars.” However, actually taking advantage of what the technology allows, and making it so everyone can benefit, and you’ve run afoul of copyright law. Luckily, the majority overruled this tortured reasoning.