Canadian Public Domain Not Good Enough For German Publisher

from the this-is-not-the-public-domain-you-were-looking-for dept

It's no secret that different countries have different lengths for copyright. That's why there are constant debates over copyright extension, as countries with shorter terms for copyright are pressured by those with longer terms to extend (or, better yet, to leapfrog) copyright terms. Otherwise, you end up with the situation where content in one country is in the public domain, while it's still under copyright elsewhere. In the age of the internet, where borders are somewhat meaningless online, that's going to cause some problems. Witness the situation with the International Music Score Library Project, a wiki-based project in Canada, for publishing public domain music scores online. The site was careful about copyright, making sure that the only content published was in the public domain. Since the site is based in Canada, it focused on Canadian copyright law and what was in the public domain in that country. Apparently, that was seen as problematic to a German publisher, Universal Edition AG, who found that some of the musical scores that are in the public domain in Canada are still under copyright in Germany. Universal Edition then hired a Toronto law firm to send a cease and desist letter, that caused the entire site to be taken down. Yes, even though all of the content was perfectly legal under Canadian law, this German publisher was able to get it taken offline because some of the content was still under copyright in Europe. If this type of thing is allowed to stand, then we reach a point where all copyright online automatically is covered by the absolute most draconian and stringent levels of copyright law, no matter what the law is anywhere else. That doesn't seem either reasonable or fair.

Filed Under: canada, copyright, copyright extension, eu, international music score library project, public domain
Companies: universal edition ag


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  1. identicon
    BTR1701, 23 Oct 2007 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re: Re: What is the alternative ?

    > but until a global copyright agreement is
    > reached that may have to be a constant annoyance.

    So does this annoyance extend to other laws as well? I mean, it's a crime in Germany to deny the Holocaust and/or put up a web site glorifying the Nazis. However, both of those things are perfectly legal (albeit distasteful) in America.

    So suppose someone living in Oklahoma puts up a pro-Hitler web site, which is accessible in Germany. Should the German courts be able to swear out an indictment, an arrest warrant and a request for extradition, demanding that U.S. citizen in Oklahoma be turned over to stand trial in Germany for violating German law?

    The same goes for obscenity. Even within the USA, the legal standard for obscenity varies from community to community and state to state-- indeed the Supreme Court's benchmark for obscenity is material which "violates prevailing community standards...". Should a person in California who puts up a "Faces of Death" type web site be subject to California obscenity law (where such things are tolerated) or Kansas obscenity law (the heart of the Bible Belt where community standards are much stricter)?

    Also child porn. In the USA, all but one of Traci Lords's porn videos are illegal because she was under 18 when she made them. But in Canada, most of them are legal. If a Canadian put them up on the web, could that person be extradited and tried for promulgating child porn in the USA?

    If it's okay to adopt a "strictest law wins" approach to copyright law, what justification is there for not applying this approach to all conflict-of-laws cases involving the internet?

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