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LJ and Copyright Questions

September 16, 2006

Questions have arisen about LiveJournal and a Broadcasting Treaty proposed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  In particular there is a discussion about the threat this treaty might pose to bloggers’ intellectual property rights here.  I personally have too little understanding of copyright law to comment, though as the Copyright Officer at Purdue often told us, the answer to every copyright question is, “It depends”.  Anyway.

BBC news covered the treaty here.  The LA Times has a similar article here.

This is a document written about the subject in 2003, and another article on Intellectual Property Watch’s website indicates that the treaty has been under revision for about 10 years.

Furthur information is available at a page created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, detailing bloggers’ rights.

Now, to counterbalance all the scary news, I’d like to direct your attention to the LiveJournal Terms of Service, which states in part that:

LJ TOS – XIV – 3:
LiveJournal claims no ownership or control over any Content posted by its users. The author retains all patent, trademark, and copyright to all Content posted within available fields, and is responsible for protecting those rights, but is not entitled to the help of the LiveJournal staff in protecting such Content. The user posting any Content represents that it has all rights necessary to post such Content (and for LiveJournal to serve such Content) without violation of any intellectual property or other rights of third parties, or any laws or regulations;

Will they revise that if the WIPO treaty passes?  I don’t know.  I would imagine, frankly, that your average blogger isn’t going to be affected by this.  The people whose rights I’m more personally concerned with (yes, fine, I’m selfish) are those of us who write original fiction/creative nonficion/poetry/song lyrics that we post on our blogs and would like to eventually publish some day.

The problem is, there’s already copyright questions about any creative material posted here, without the added confusion of the WIPO treaty.  I have an idea, and now I can’t recall where I got it, that if I post original creative material on my blog, such as excerpts or the entirety of a short story or novel, it may constitute publication under U.S. copyright law.  This could prevent a publisher from purchasing it, since publishers usually purchase First North American Rights, etc.  Does that sound silly? Yeah.  I have no substantiation at the moment for this belief.  BUT I would caution you to be careful about what you post.  Would I be safer because I post it to a friends-locked list?  Possibly.  But I really don’t know.

I’m looking into this, but if any of y’all have knowledge for me that is applicable, by all means, please share it.

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