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FAA To Free Aircraft Hobbled By IP Laws 106

Posted by kdawson
from the maintain-it-but-we-won't-tell-you-how dept.
smellsofbikes writes "The FAA is attempting to develop a legal process that will allow them to release data about vintage aircraft designs that have obviously been abandoned. Existing laws restrict the FAA's ability to release this data because it is deemed to be intellectual property even though the owner of record has long since ceased to exist. This is fundamentally the same problem that copyright laws impose on people looking for out-of-print books. But in the case of vintage aircraft, the owners are legally required to maintain them to manufacturer specifications that the owners cannot legally obtain: an expensive and potentially lethal dilemma. If the FAA, notoriously hidebound and conservative, is willing to find a solution to this IP Catch-22, maybe the idea will catch on in other places."
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FAA To Free Aircraft Hobbled By IP Laws

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  • by creimer (824291)
    I always wanted to build a War World I biplane. Those vintage stealth designs are hard to come by.
    • Though I like the look of most warplanes, and have a real fondness for the Grumman Goose, I am not an aircraft enthusiast and so this may be a silly question: exactly how is a WWI biplane a stealth design?

      • by Nimey (114278)
        YHBT.

        However, wood-and-fabric don't reflect radio waves as well as metal.
        • by compro01 (777531)
          how did he get trolled? he replied to the post about WW1 biplanes, not the anna nicole post.

          and the semi-stealth properties of wood is why the mosquito is my favorite WW2 plane
      • by creimer (824291)
        ... how is a WWI biplane a stealth design?

        If I told you, I would be obligated to kill you. Wait until the FAA releases the design. :P
      • Let me be the first to say:
        Whoosh!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by markbt73 (1032962)
        They're painted blue underneath.
      • by JoGlo (1000705)

        I am not an aircraft enthusiast and so this may be a silly question: exactly how is a WWI biplane a stealth design?

        If I remember rightly, there was a NATE exercise back in the 20th century, where one of the objects was to penetrate US air space without being bounced by some supersonic jet-jock. The Poms managed it with a WW1 biplane at the time - even when it was picked up on radar, no-one on the ground could tell what it was, or in which direction it was going.

      • "Bogey's air speed not sufficient for intercept. Suggest we get out and walk."
      • by jimicus (737525)
        Because anyone who sees a WW1 biplane in a combat situation today would assume they must be losing their mind. Therefore, rather than engage in combat, they'll fly home and report sick.
  • Pacific Fighters (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nimey (114278) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:34PM (#17939516) Homepage Journal
    Sadly, this will be too late for Oleg Maddox's Pacific Fighters simulation. Northrop Grumman have been bastards and refused to let 1C:Games use models of N-G aircraft and ships without paying a license fee--something that started when Lockheed claimed the F-22 as their intellectual property, never mind that it's been bought and paid for by the US government.

    Results of this include there being no Yorktown-class model in the sim, nor the TBF Avenger, and I think no more American warplanes beyond the ones initially shipped; contrast this to Soviet, German, Italian, and Japanese a/c being added in patches.

    About time, though.
    • by stratjakt (596332) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:47PM (#17939732) Journal
      The US government is a customer of lockheed, and no more owns the rights to F-22 IP than I own the rights to the design of the transmission in my mustang. They may have deals in place to exclusively sell to the US military, but that doesnt make the military own the design.

      As for the rest of your complaint, too bad, but it'll improve the game experience in the end. So it's not a TBF-avenger, it's a "TBB-evengor".

      The Burnout series doesn't have any real car models, and is still a fun game. Other games with licensed models (NFS) are hampered, because the license owners dont want the game developer to depict a porsche all smashed up with its bumper hanging off.

      Licensing is a big deal now that video games are on top of the entertainment industry. But, in the end, do I really care that the virtual car I'm driving around is labelled a "Fernorri Fasterelli"?

      Also, I doubt the FAA gives a fuck about video game licensing, and are more worried about getting info into the hands of people needing to maintain aircraft built by now defunct companies.
      • by Nimey (114278)
        I don't think you funded the design of your Mustang to the extent that the US government did the F-22.
      • Re:Pacific Fighters (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOSpam.mac.com> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @06:00PM (#17939946) Journal
        They may have deals in place to exclusively sell to the US military, but that doesnt make the military own the design.

        Actually, it's the development contracts that make the designs the property of the United States. Ever since WW I, the US military has had standard clauses in procurement contracts to ensure that they could have the aircraft built by any vendor(s) they chose. In practice, that right has only been exercised in wartime, since the costs of getting a second source spun up are pretty steep.

        -jcr

        • by Peyna (14792)
          The license that is granted to the U.S. doesn't mean it has the power to hand over the IP to anyone it wants for any purpose, and doesn't mean the IP is public domain.

          The government can obtain licenses to IP, and can have IP given to it, in which case it has the same rights in it as anyone else would.

          IP created by the government, cannot be protected, and that is something all together different.
          • by Kadin2048 (468275)
            I think the point comes down to how you define "created by."

            Unfortunately, current copyright law only covers "a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person's official duties." This probably made sense, when most of the government's functions were actually accomplished by government employees, but today -- when a large part, if not the majority, of government functions are done by private-sector contractors -- it means that an awful lot of what would traditi
            • by Peyna (14792)
              IMO, it would make more sense to put everything that is funded wholly or in the majority by tax dollars into the public domain, unless specifically exempted for national security or other bona fide public interest reasons.

              What about works funded by the NEA?
              • What about works funded by the NEA?

                I would argue that if you take taxpayer dollars for your art project, then (in the same way that the software that I write at work belongs to my company, not to me) it's basically a government work, done on commission. If you don't like that, don't take the cash. Nobody ever said that cash handouts should come without strings attached; actually, as long as the government is giving away my tax dollars, I'd prefer that they attach enough strings to make sure that the public
          • I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that anything produced/owned by the government (barring state secrets maybe) is public domain material. It wouldn't make sense if the government could charge you for royalties on copies of the constitution :P
          • by jcr (53032)
            The IP in this situation is a work made for hire, and property of the United Sates. The only fighter developed with private funds in the last fifty years was the F-20 Tigershark. All the rest of them belong to the taxpayers.

            -jcr
        • by asuffield (111848)

          In practice, that right has only been exercised in wartime

          Wartime is the normal state for the US. In its short history, it has been at war with somebody on a pretty regular basis (although as a matter of principle the US always fights undeclared wars). Here's the embarrassing list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Wars [wikipedia.org]

          It is an open question as to whether the large military-industrial complex grew up to support the wars, or the wars grew up to support the large military-industrial complex.

      • The US government is a customer of lockheed, and no more owns the rights to F-22 IP than I own the rights to the design of the transmission in my mustang.

        Just like the American Bantam Car Company owned its Jeep design.

      • by syousef (465911)
        See the problem is you see these things as just a game. A lot of flight simmers take their game very seriously and try to make it as real as possible. That's rather hard when your aircraft have dicky arcade names. People spend hundreds of dollars on sim addons, build home cockpits, and go to incredible lengths to make online flying realistic. It's a whole other mindset.

        If you'd spent 18 months building a model to release as freeware how would you feel if a large aircraft company that built it many years bef
    • by twostar (675002)
      Did you even RTFA? It pertains to aircraft owners getting access so they can maintain the airworthiness as required by the FAA. Nothing about getting permission to make games with older aircraft from existing aircraft companies. If NG doesn't want people to use their aircraft without licensing this isn't going to change that.
    • What rights? The applicable patents, if any, on an Avenger would've expired ages ago, the shape, appearance, and performance characteristics aren't copyrightable or trademarkable due to the respective utility doctrines of those bodies of law, there's no trade secrets involved, and the name is likely not trademarkable either since they don't make and sell them anymore and even if it was, it's a nominative use.

      For new planes, I could see patents and trademarks covering certain aspects of it (though utility is
      • by 91degrees (207121)
        You have to realise that game companies don't have a lot of money to spend on legal defence, and they're playing it very safe. They very probably could have used the designs and names, and found that the owners had no real interest in defending their rights, since they make a lot more money selling planes than licencing to games companies, but they can't be sure of that.
        • They very probably could have used the designs and names, and found that the owners had no real interest in defending their rights, since they make a lot more money selling planes than licencing to games companies, but they can't be sure of that.

          No, what I'm saying is that they could be pretty sure, if they talked with their lawyers, that the owners have no rights at all; whether or not they want to defend those rights is irrelevant if they haven't got them to begin with. It's like if I said that I owned ev
          • No, what I'm saying is that they could be pretty sure, if they talked with their lawyers, that the owners have no rights at all; whether or not they want to defend those rights is irrelevant if they haven't got them to begin with.

            And, as a lawyer (but not one dispensing legal advice), are you asserting that Northrop-Grumman couldn't at least make things difficult for the game company right up to the point that its lack of rights were established?

        • by dougmc (70836)

          You have to realise that game companies don't have a lot of money to spend on legal defence, and they're playing it very safe.

          *Some* game companies do. EA probably has *millions* they could spend on legal offense and defense, if they so chose. (Of course, they generally don't so chose, unless they think it'll make/save them even more money.)

          But that's moot -- this FAA action/plan has *nothing* to do with using old planes in games. Perhaps you (and some previous posters) were thinking of the Milita [theorator.com]

      • Haven't game designers been using WWII images and info for decades? Wouldn't that put this info in the public domain at this point since they didn't stop the countless other uses of it?
      • by wheelgun (178700)
        Oleg Maddox and his company, 1C, are Russian. They know precious little about U.S. law, and received bad legal advice from UbiSoft. They entered into an agreement with Northrup Grumman that they needn't have signed. No one told them this until it was too late. Fortunately the IL-2 franchise is almost obsolete- 1C is releasing a new flight sim this Christmas. And they won't be bound to refrain from using NG products in it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zippthorne (748122)
      If they're smart they'll talk Grumman into a very low/nonexistent license fee since a game is also an advertisement for the company's designs. Very much like 90% of the car-games on PS2 are thinly disguised ads. Similarly Lockheed. Whatever fees they could extract from the game are likely insignificant compared to their core businesses regardless.

      Also, they may be able to purchase the rights from the US Government, depending on how their agreements with Lockheed, Grumman are worded. I'm sure they'd be i
      • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @08:00PM (#17941776) Homepage Journal

        If they're smart they'll talk Grumman into a very low/nonexistent license fee since a game is also an advertisement for the company's designs.
        It's true! If it weren't for all the General Dynamics ads [retrojunk.com] and product placement in games I played as a kid, I probably never would have bought all those F-16s that I have sitting on blocks out in the front yard.
        • If you are an American however, you have bought quite a few F-16s. You also probably have an idea about what a fighter jet is "supposed to" look like. I'm sure the fact that the Lockheed JSF candidate looked like a sleek war bird, stylistically similar to other American fighters and the Boeing submission looked like a fat, ugly duck played into the decision to go with Lockheed for that purchase despite their relative equivalence.
          They did differ a bit from a performance standpoint, but they each had streng
          • Boeing built a "prototype" without a horizontal tail piece. They were going to add one for the final version.

            Well gee. That's a whole different plane. You might as well be changing the number of engines, switching from aluminum to composite, or putting canards on the front.
        • Ah but you can impress the other nations of the world, like the romans did... no one was more badass than the romans and everyone was scared of them.

          Until the huns didn't care, then they destroyed em...

          The U.S. loves using media for marketting of this type and it gets more and more obvious the more you know about military hardware and policies.
    • But if Northrop Grumman doesn't get paid for gamers to use their models, then what possible incentive could Northrop Grumman have, so that they would ever bother to apply for government contracts to design and build fighters in exchange for billions and billions of dolla-- oh, wait.
  • by starseeker (141897) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:37PM (#17939566) Homepage
    "Data could be released provided the following circumstances are met: The certificate containing the requested data is inactive for at least three years; the TC owner of record, or the owner of record's heir, cannot not be located; and the designation of such data as public data will enhance aviation safety."

    This is a good step, but it seems to pertain to safety concerns much more than "hobbiest" concerns, which was my first thought when I saw "vintage." (It would be really cool to see, say, original blueprints in svg format for the first commercial airplanes, but good luck getting either access to such information or right to do anything with it.)

    I doubt the logic used in this process could be generalized to copyright in general (probably the issue of most interest to slashdot), since it's pretty hard to argue that (for example) old software manuals for a long dead image editing system could pertain to public safety. They might be very well written and a good starting point for new efforts, but the benefits of that are much more indirect.

    I think the loss of old documents and knowledge is a very unfortunate thing - there is a certain logic to IP holdings of companies that have "lapsed" or vanished becoming defunct in order to allow the knowledge and resources to be used for further progress. Of course, that would require uniquely identifying IP created by that company as opposed to being licensed from somewhere else, virtually impossible without good records. A nasty situation.
    • by chopper749 (574759) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:50PM (#17939768) Journal
      This would apply to commercial airplanes IF the manufacturer is no longer around and no one
      claims rights to the type certificate, AND you have one of the airplanes and need the data to
      maintain it in a safe manner. If you just think it would be cool to see, it wouldn't
      'enhance aviation safety' in anyway to release the details.

      These documents wouldn't be "lost" with out this change. They are part of the Federal Records.
      The type certificates contain all of the drawing and details required to build the aircraft.
      If the company built a plane that didn't meet the type cert, it would not be certified as airworthy.
      This just allows owners of the planes to keep them legally flyable.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by beeblebrox (16781)

        If you just think it would be cool to see, it wouldn't 'enhance aviation safety' in anyway to release the details.

        Even if the request is from an aeronautics student who, years later, might well be involved in the design of aircraft on which you or your descendants might fly?

    • by zotz (3951)
      [Of course, that would require uniquely identifying IP created by that company as opposed to being licensed from somewhere else, virtually impossible without good records. A nasty situation.]

      It wouldn't be nearly the nasty problem if copyright still only lasted for 14 years or whatever the original length was. And if copies had to be deposited in the library of congress. And if the library was tasked with making works available on the net as they passed out of copyright and from then on.

      The last two options
    • My own experience... (Score:3, Informative)

      by jd (1658)
      ...in tracking down the plans for the DH98 DeHavilland Mosquito was that it took nearly ten years of querying every known hobbyist and vintage aircraft group known to man, virtually every museum with a DH98, British Aerospace (the last company to own a flying Mosquito and the owner of the DeHavilland intellectual property) and a group that now sells reproduction DeHavilland aircraft.

      Ten years. And that's for a plane that effectively stopped existing three or four years before I even started the quest.

      (I

  • by Vengeance (46019) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:39PM (#17939594)
    It seems awfully simple to me, really. If something, whether it be blueprints, books, records or whatnot is not available via the marketplace from any supplier, there seems to be little financial damage done to anyone when someone duplicates 'em.

    So all of the fine speak about protecting people's 'Intellectual Property' rights, which really come down to allowing a form of legalized monopoly to allow an originator to profit, becomes entirely moot.
    • by Artraze (600366) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:55PM (#17939870)
      > If something, whether it be blueprints, books, records or whatnot is not available via the
      > marketplace from any supplier, there seems to be little financial damage done to anyone
      > when someone duplicates 'em.

      But that's a bit short sighted. The same argument was (is?) used with regards to things like NES/SNES roms, but now Nintendo is reselling the games (virtual console). Sure the new versions may not be quite the same since they play one the Wii, but either way, there's still a potential for damage. So the trick is that you have to determine that something is not only unavailible, but that it will also never be availible.

      And while the method the FAA says they'll be using would work for other things, there is more value for things like planes. The trouble is that even if you have a plane, there is very little knowledge obtainable (without massive effort). With a book, all the stuff of value is right there in black and white. The FAA is essentially doing the equivilant of releasing the author's notes along with the book. While the latter is convienent (to say the least), the former actually adds to public wealth.
      • by Vengeance (46019)
        Once Nintendo began reselling the games, they were back in the 'profit from a protected resource' category. Then, and ONLY then, in my opinion, did it then again become a rights violation (as oppposed to a violation of the letter of the law) for others to market them. They ought to have made a legal avenue available for obtaining these things, if people wanted to use 'em... and apparently people DID want to.

        Sure, it's more important from public safety viewpoint for this to apply to old airplane designs, b
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by evilviper (135110)

        The same argument was (is?) used with regards to things like NES/SNES roms, but now Nintendo is reselling the games (virtual console).

        Just because you CAN find another way to squeeze a few more dollars out of the current copyright scheme, doesn't mean it's a good thing.

        Even though it might cost the copyright holders a little bit of money, I believe the OP has a reasonable scheme...

        I'd also be happy with copyright renewal every 5 or 10 years... So anything not worth the registration fee to the owner (who ma

      • But that's a bit short sighted. The same argument was (is?) used with regards to things like NES/SNES roms, but now Nintendo is reselling the games (virtual console). Sure the new versions may not be quite the same since they play one the Wii, but either way, there's still a potential for damage. So the trick is that you have to determine that something is not only unavailible, but that it will also never be availible.

        Why? I, for one, see absolutely nothing wrong with requiring that the things be continuou

        • by ckaminski (82854)
          Define continuously available?

          Duke Nukem Forever has been on the presale list for 6 years now. Is a 10 year layaway, or a 5 year backorder "continuously available?"

    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @06:01PM (#17939964)
      It seems awfully simple to me, really. If something, whether it be blueprints, books, records or whatnot is not available via the marketplace from any supplier, there seems to be little financial damage done to anyone when someone duplicates 'em.

      Aircraft are a little different, though. You need an exact, verified, updated from the manufacturer copy. You might die otherwise.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:41PM (#17939614) Homepage
    In a better world than this one, copyright holders would have to pay a fee and register their works. If they can't be bothered, why should we bother pretending that they care?
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:51PM (#17939772)
      At least with copyrights there is a level playing field. A peasant sitting in a cornfield can write something and have copyright over it.

      Patents require a lot of money and thus are exclusive to those that can afford them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cpt kangarooski (3773)
        Neither should require a lot of money, but both should require some money. Copyrights and patents are economic incentives; they are only useful to authors who plan to make money from their work, or inventors who plan to make money from their invention. Authors or inventors who are motivated to do the same work without the incentive of copyrights or patents should not get them, as they'd be superfluous and harmful to the public without any public benefit. Requiring some small hurdle to be cleared by the righ
        • by bhsx (458600)
          Copyright can NOT involve exchange of money for protection. When you write something, anything really (that's not immune to copyright such as a recipe), it's copyrighted to you. Remove money from the situation at all, would it be OK for someone to break into my computer and start distributing my private records or love notes without my permission?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by cpt kangarooski (3773)
            Copyright can NOT involve exchange of money for protection.

            Yes it can, and in fact, it traditionally has.

            When you write something, anything really (that's not immune to copyright such as a recipe), it's copyrighted to you.

            Why should that be true? I think that it would be a bad idea to do that, and again, that's a pretty new idea which has been having a lot of predictably bad results.

            would it be OK for someone to break into my computer and start distributing my private records or love notes without my permi
            • by bhsx (458600)

              Why should that be true? I think that it would be a bad idea to do that, and again, that's a pretty new idea which has been having a lot of predictably bad results.

              Care to explain? Maybe some linkage, or perhaps an anecdotal example would help to clarify what you mean.
              I tend to disagree with the rest of your argument as well, but you make some valid points. If I'm not planning on publishing them, I can understand your sentiment that I shouldn't be protected by copyright. Let me posit this though: what if I decide that all of my love notes over the years constitute a publishable, marketable product? Since I didn't write them initially to publish have I lost my r

              • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @10:28PM (#17943396) Homepage
                Care to explain? Maybe some linkage, or perhaps an anecdotal example would help to clarify what you mean.

                Until the 1976 Copyright Act, published materials that were not formally registered with the Copyright Office (or other bodies, if you go back far enough), were automatically in the public domain. Many unpublished works were as well. And now, after the 1976 Act, unpublished, unregistered works that were created before 1978 and not published by 2003 also automatically entered the public domain. So it's not as though we have to grant copyrights to everything, or something.

                But the crappy laws we have these days, which do indiscriminately grant copyrights pretty clearly are not only not benefiting the public (which wants 1) works to be created and published, and; 2) works to be in the public domain as soon as possible and to be minimally protected by copyright if at all), but they aren't even an incentive to authors to begin with. (e.g. architectural works, overly long terms, giving works the full measure of protection without any indication by the author that it is desired)

                We can do pretty much anything we want with copyright. It has to provide a public benefit, as described above. It should provide the greatest possible benefit. It has to have limited terms, it has to only protect original works of authorship, and the rights have to vest in the author. So long as these requirements can be met, copyright can be pretty much anything. The current system is no good, though, so at least we know what it shouldn't be.

                Let me posit this though: what if I decide that all of my love notes over the years constitute a publishable, marketable product? Since I didn't write them initially to publish have I lost my right to do so?

                I think that we ought to take a page from patent law and the old common law copyright, which is pretty closely related to copyright law, in that they use similar means to achieve similar ends. If you're still in the process of creating a work, then you should have some limited rights to prevent people from pirating the manuscript, as it were, but it shouldn't be enough protection that an author would actively want to be at this level of protection if he could avoid it. Otherwise, if you abandon the work in progress, you get one year, and then you lose your rights in it and your eligibility for a registered copyright if you haven't registered it already. If you publish the work (inclusive of publicly performing or displaying it), then you get one year to register before your unregistered rights expire. The whole point of the system should be to weed out authors who are not motivated by the commercial benefits which are the only thing a copyright is good for. Hobbyists shouldn't get copyrights unless they're transitioning over to being professionals; it's not an incentive for hobbyists, who would have done the same work anyway. (It's analogous to paying someone for painting your house after they painted it for free; the charity on both sides is admirable, but it's no way to run a railroad) Once the work is registered, the full measure of protections open up, copies are deposited with the Library of Congress, and you need only renew the copyright periodically (say, every year or two) so that your continuing interest can be judged; fail to renew, and we can safely say that you don't care about the copyright anymore, so the work enters the public domain before the maximum possible term would run through. (Which also is how we used to do things, though with longer terms)

                So in your case, you were not inspired by copyright in writing the notes. And while it'd be nice to get them published, which is desirable, it's also nice to not grant copyrights excessively. Often, fewer works but more freedom is more valuable than more works and less freedom. Given that you probably will not have competition for your love letters -- there's so many authors that it's a publisher's market -- you may as well publish it as a public domain work. If there is any money to be mad
                • by bhsx (458600)
                  Thank you for answering my questions. I have to agree to disagree with you on your answers though. You base your premise on the thought that my private love letters aren't really worth anything (basically because I use love letters as a bad example of what I meant; but I'll work with that). What if they are worth a fortune? What if my love letters were a rosetta's stone of how to get laid, by anyone, anytime?
                  I'm not saying they are, in fact, I don't think I've ever written a love letter on anything b
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Russ Nelson (33911)
        "Insightful"?? Sheesh! A modest fee of like $5 or $10 per year to retain copyright is something a peasant can afford .... or not, in which case he doesn't need us to pretend we care. If the copyright holder doesn't care even that much, then society shouldn't care either.
    • by blibbler (15793)
      What makes you think that the aircraft manufacturers would not have paid to register copyrights over their works when they produced them?

      Requiring people to pay for copyright would not affect large companies like those in the music, movie, publishing or the aviation industry. It would affect individuals, and small groups from being able to protect their rights. For example, while newspapers, and other news organisations would register their copyrights, bloggers are less likely to do so... which means the Ne
      • by belmolis (702863)

        I think that the point is that if the manufacturers had to periodically re-register their data and pay a fee to do so, the data would tend to become publicly available when the manufacturers no longer had an interest in it. As it is, it stays secret indefinitely.

        • by blibbler (15793)
          Well, copyrights do expire. Most places in the world adhere to the life + 70 years. Personally, I think 70 years is excessive, with life + 30, or life + 50 years being more reasonable.
          • by belmolis (702863)

            Yes, but copyrights take too long to expire, at least in these aircraft cases. The virtue of requiring period re-registration with a fee is that you can allow a relatively long copyright period if the owner finds the copyright valuable enough to keep it up, but that once the owner decides it isn't worth it, it lapses. This would eliminate the gap that results in orphan works, where a publisher loses interest in the work but the copyright runs on and on for decades afterward. If you've got a plane whose man

            • If you've got a plane whose manufacturer has gone out of business or dropped support for that line, you want the maintenance information now, not ten or twenty years from now.

              The plane company might want you to buy a new plane. They are certainly entitled to 'sit on' the information about their older models and let them rust, if it helps them sell new planes. Nobody is entitled to 'support information' just because.
              • by belmolis (702863)

                I don't agree. It should be up to the consumer to decide whether or not to buy a new plane. He shouldn't have to buy one just because the manufacturer wants to make more money. Nobody is asking the company to provide support indefinitely - we're just talking about the detailed specs.

                • Nobody is forcing the consumer to buy a plane from the company in question. In fact, the wise buyer, if the sort inclinded to need the data the company will not release, would choose a different brand of plane on his/her next purchase. The plane he presently owns, however, should be passed along to another person who can service or use it without said data, or scrapped.

                  The manufacturer is not obligated to release proprietary data.
          • I'd go with life+25 or 50 years, whichever is shorter. With lifespans and the amount of material being produced increasing the logjams caused by drawn out IP timespans gets worse.
          • Not in the USA. Anything that was covered by copyright after about 1920 is still covered by copyright.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Russ Nelson (33911)

        What makes you think that the aircraft manufacturers would not have paid to register copyrights over their works when they produced them?


        And then when they stopped paying their yearly fee .... the design and repair documents would go into the public domain.
    • by chrismcb (983081)
      I don't understand what this comment has to do with this article? I don't know the exactl details, but it seems to me that aircraft manufactuers already register their aircraft information with the FAA. That is how the FAA has all of this aircraft data, that the want to release. But if the manufacturer goes belly up, the owners of the planes may no longer be able to access the information that they need to fix their plane. But the FAA does have this information. Unfortunately they can't release this inform
    • In a better world than this one, copyright holders would have to pay a fee and register their works.

      But that would mean we currently ARE in a better world than this one, which is a paradox. DOES NOT COMPUTE

      While copyright is implicitly granted to the creator of a work immediately upon its creation, anyone who is going to have a need to actually enforce their copyright is going to register their creation with the Copyright Office.

      The problem, obviously, is that the term of copyright automatically extends fo
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:43PM (#17939660)

    the FAA, notoriously hidebound and conservative

    The FAA, possibly even more notorious for their dislike of aircraft crashing, even old ones?

  • "The plane is not safe to fly until the weight of the paperwork exceeds that of the aircraft." They are merely helping themselves;-)
    • by jimicus (737525)
      Might take a while with the Airbus A380, then.
      • A friend is an airline pilot for an undisclosed company. The curtain rod separating First Class from Coach was broken. Before they could take off, a mechanic had to come out to the airplane and put an "INOP" sticker on the curtain rod to confirm that it was not operational, that it had been logged, and that the aircraft could safely proceed without the equipment. How long did it take to get the mechanic and sticker there? hour and half. Had my friend and the Captain decided to just take off, they could
  • This would be a good way to bring old aircraft back to life. There are lots of people who have old aircraft that have a lot of trouble keeping them functioning. Now, homebuilders could conceivably make true-to-spec replicas of early aircraft. I'm sure the Save A Connie people over in Kansas City are going to be happy about this as well.
    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @07:26PM (#17941190)
      Homebuilders can already make damned close copies (and safe ones at that) of just about any design out there. Indeed there are a bazillion copies of things like the Piper Cub out there flying - the look and flying pretty similar, and they are built using the same types of techniques, but underneath they aren't identical to an original cub (indeed most of the newer "copies" of aircraft like the cub are vastly superior to the original). The thing is that any homebuilt aircraft has to go under the Experimental-Homebuilt certification. While this entails a lot of freedom for the operator (there's not much you can't do in a homebuilt aircraft), it does have some limitations. Namely, the airplane cannot be used for hire (so they can't be rented out for instruction for example), and the builder is legally the manufacturer, so he comes under a lot of liability concerns if he ever sells the plane.

      For old planes, unless you get a field approval (unlikely) or the mod falls under an STC (Special Type Certificate), repairs and rebuilds of components must be EXACTLY the same as the original if you are to keep the plane Certified as a regular aircraft. So it's not just an issue of rebuilding the plane to a safe working condition to keep it functioning - that's easy; it's a matter of rebuilding it back to exactly the way it was before. That's not so easy to guess at.

      Of course, the Piper Cub is not a great example as total blueprints are apparently available for this one. Indeed, salvaged data-plates from wrecked Cubs go for $10k or so by themselves - as long as you have that you can literally build the plane from scratch according the original plans, stick the data plate on it, and it is legally the same plane as the one that was wrecked. Even though it was constructed form scratch, that whole process was considered a "repair" operation. The FAA is a strange critter :).
    • I dream of a Grumman Goose with modern materials...
  • by PRMan (959735) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @07:54PM (#17941672)

    This should be the case in every digital IP field:

    music, video games, television, movies, etc., etc., etc.

    If it's not worth enough to an organization to continue making an item available for sale, then how can the item have enough value to protect?

    And if the item becomes popular again in the future, it is almost always a derivative work anyway.

    • by zotz (3951)

      This should be the case in every digital IP field:

      music, video games, television, movies, etc., etc., etc.

      If it's not worth enough to an organization to continue making an item available for sale, then how can the item have enough value to protect?

      While I agree with you, I think the value the big boys see is in the old stuff not competing with the new.

      all the best,

      drew

      http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=zotzbr o&search=Search [youtube.com]

  • But in the case of vintage aircraft, the owners are legally required to maintain them to manufacturer specifications that the owners cannot legally obtain: an expensive and potentially lethal dilemma.

    I guess copyright is more dangerous than we thought . . .

  • Any IP rights that has been abandoned (owner has died, company has gone out of business) should after a reasonable time (no more than five years) be considered to go over into the public domain unless somebody can by documentation claim that they have the IP rights.

    Of course - there has to be a publication that lists works that are ripe for losing the IP ownership so that anybody that may have claims can oppose the release. The opposing part has to provide reasonable documentation regarding the claim with

  • Seems to me General motors doesn't care about any Minivan designs that won't earn a 5 Star crash test rating, so can they please just give out the designs so the third world can start producing them?

    Everything points to North America (And much of the developed world) switching to hydrogen or bio-fuels in the next few years.

    They could give out the plans for their car from 5 years ago and it wouldn't be competition by the time other companies got their manufacturing working.
  • All I want to know is - will they release the plans for the fairey rotodyne?

    I gotta get me one of those...
  • But in the case of vintage aircraft, the owners are legally required to maintain them to manufacturer specifications that the owners cannot legally obtain: an expensive and potentially lethal dilemma.

    This is simply criminal! The FAA must be stopped from doing this. If they carry on down this road, then the ultimate end will be the destruction of the use-once-only airplane we all know and love and it's replacement with some shoddy horrible clap-trap assembly of a resusable airplane. Not only would you not g

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