[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

RE: Clarification (RE: "Fair Use" Is Getting Unfair Treatment)

Let's stick to the subject, which is literary property. A very close
analogy from the pre-electronic period, and one which is still valid
today, is a personal letter.

If someone--say JD Sallinger-- writes me a letter, I own the letter. What
I own is the paper, the ink, and the right to read it. I do not own the
intellectual content, though, and I most definitely do not have the right
to publish the letter. If the author were to have kept a copy of the
letter, he could publish it without my permission, as he owns the content.

If the author were to want my letter back, he can not compel me to give or
sell it to him or to stop reading it, because he gave the physical object
to me; nor could he steal it from me. If I want to make some money, I can
sell the letter to you. You now have the same rights I did, but no more or

If a scholar wants to publish the letter, he must get both permission from
the owner of the content (the author), and get permission from me or you
or whoever owns the physical copy. Libraries own many manuscripts for
which they have the physical possession, but not the right to publish.


Now, if JD Sallinger were to have written me the letter in code, and not
told me the code, I would be in the position of owning the paper and the
ink, but still be unable to read it. However, if I were to figure out the
code on my own, I could read it. If it were subject to the DMCA, I would
not have the right to figure out the code.

David Goodman
Research Librarian and
Biological Sciences Bibliographer
Princeton University Library
dgoodman@princeton.edu            609-258-7785