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Court Says You Can Copyright a Cease-And-Desist Letter 349

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the chilling-day-for-free-speech dept.
TechDirt has a follow up to a case they covered back in October where a law firm was trying to claim a copyright on the cease-and-desist letters they sent out. Public Citizen poked a number of holes in this claim and invited the lawyers to "try it." Well, unfortunately the lawyers decided to bite and what's more, they actually got a judge to buy it. The news was announced by the victorious lawyer who now claims he can sue anytime someone posts one of his cease-and-desist letters. "The copyrighting of cease-and-desist letters is an easy way for law firms to bully small companies who have committed no wrong, but who have no real recourse to fight back against an attempt to shut them up via legal threat. Until today, many companies who were being unfairly attacked by companies and law firms misusing cease-and-desist letters to prevent opinions from being stated, had a reasonable recourse to such attacks, and could draw attention to law firms that used such bullying tactics to mute any criticism."
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Court Says You Can Copyright a Cease-And-Desist Letter

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  • by joss (1346) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @06:42AM (#22192312) Homepage
    The actual text maybe copyrightable, but one still has fair use, one can excerp bits and rewrite other parts. This ruling does not stop people drawing attention to the fac that they are being bullied. It's daft but its not fatal.
    • by Homology (639438) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:20AM (#22192454)

      The actual text maybe copyrightable, but one still has fair use, one can excerp bits and rewrite other parts. This ruling does not stop people drawing attention to the fac that they are being bullied. It's daft but its not fatal.

      But it surely will make the bullied thinking about even quoting pieces of the cease-and-desist-letter since who will decide what is fair use? Perhaps the bullied will be bullied with another cease-and-desist letter?

      • by xk0der (1003200) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:49AM (#22192568) Homepage
        Can I like, not open the cease-and-desist letter and tell the judge that since I didn't open the letter so that I do not violate copyright? Reason being, I too write such letters, and since I didn't opened the letter, I have the right not to "cease-and-desist"? Since I can never know what is inside the letter, and I really do not want to know, so that my creativity and originality while writing such letter is not affected (corrupted?)? .. I'm exempted, am I?

        Court orders and judgments too should be copyrighted, any other judge, if he/she is not creative enough to craft his own flowery words for the judgment should be tried for copy-right violations!
        • by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @11:45AM (#22193956) Homepage
          This is also my thinking.

          The penalty for "privatizing" a document is that it cannot be made part of a "Due Process" which the constitution requires to be open.
          Only a judge can "Seal" official court documents.

          If they want a "secret justice process" they should get a prior restraining order sealing the process, but they need meaningful cause.

          This decision should be overturned. more specifically, the company should get a ruling that a "secret demand" is inconsistent with due process, and therefore constitutes an "unlawful threat".

          The great tradition of law in the west is openness. If Rosa Parks cannot tell anyone she was thrown off a bus for sitting, there could be no Birmingham bus boycott.

          In a very real sense, the attempt here is to throw someone off the bus, while avoiding the public outrage at the injustice.
          This is the worst ruling I've heard of this morning.

          AIK

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lavene (1025400)
      Disclaimer: I'm not a US citizen.
      If I get something in the mail I have not asked for I can do what ever I bloody want with it. No one can send me a letter then claim some 'rights' to it? I have not accepted any license or whatever as I do when I actively acquire something like a book or a CD. Of course, if they put an EULA on the envelope saying "By opening this seal..." they give me the option to not read it and hence as a legal notice it would fail.

      I guess this is one of those "Only in the USA" kind of th
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Unfortunately, copyright in it's base form isn't negotiated on a case-by-case basis. If someone sends you an unsolicited copy of a copyrighted piece, whatever that may be, that doesn't give you the legal right to make new copies. So whether or not you asked to be sent the material in question has no bearing on the matter. Lastly, IANAL.
        • by wealthychef (584778) * on Saturday January 26, 2008 @11:14AM (#22193744)
          That's exactly what is wrong with our legal system. Your arguments make perfect sense, the premises are valid, and yet the conclusion is unfair. If someone sends me a threatening letter, I should be able to make the threat public in order to get help for myself. That's just common sense. There is sometimes a tension between being a nation of laws and knowing when the law is insufficient to mete out justice. Lawyers and judges never understand that there needs to be some slop in the system and if the system won't provide it then people MUST create it by just working outside the system.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Christoph (17845)

            If someone sends me a threatening letter, I should be able to make the threat public in order to get help for myself. That's just common sense.

            You still can. This ruling only states that if such a letter is posted anonymously, there enough teeth in copyright law to require disclosure of the poster's identity. If there is a proper lawsuit subsequently filed, you are still entitled to a "fair use" defense, as well as a "free speech" defense, and whatever else.

            The underlying concern is that someone can sue

      • I don't know how things work in your country, but here books and CDs generally are not licensed at all. When you buy one, you own it. The work contained within is unownable, but may be copyrighted. The copyright, while it subsists, may prevent you from doing anything you like with the work. An analogy would be that when you buy a car, you own it, but you're still not allowed to break the speed limit, if such a limit applies. Software is really the only thing that is commonly licensed in the consumer market,
    • by ErikZ (55491) *
      It negates the point of scanning it in and posting it online. To show *exactly* what a bullying lawyer is doing to you.
    • I write a book, you make, and distribute, illegal copies of that book. Your actions cost me X number of sales, so you have to compensate me for those damages. That makes sense.

      I write a cease-and-desist letter, you make, and distribute, illegal copies of that letter. But you have not cost me any sales, so what are my damages?
    • People who think like you are masters of retreat. "It doesn't matter, we still have fair use". Fair use is currently under attack, but that won't matter next because we'll still have paraphrase. When that becomes the target, we'll still have discussion of the contents to comfort us. For a while.

      By demonstrating the proper and logical consequences of the copyright concepts universally demanded by a wide range of industires from legal to entertainment we get a clear view into their irrational and bankrupt f

    • by TechForensics (944258) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @02:54PM (#22195282) Homepage Journal

      The actual text maybe copyrightable, but one still has fair use, one can excerp bits and rewrite other parts. This ruling does not stop people drawing attention to the fac that they are being bullied. It's daft but its not fatal.

      Hi, I'm a U.S. lawyer and I agree with you. (How often have you heard that?)

      Besides, there is an absolute safe harbor for persons wishing to post about scams online. Truth is a defense to libel. And for that matter, to slander per se. Just be sure what you post is the truth, and they can't touch you. They might sue, of course, but it would be the kind of case that could be dismissed on affidavits and summary judgment. And, with judicious use of Requests for Admission, you might even make the pay them cost of proving true things they failed to admit. It's speculative to say so, but you might even get attorneys' fees and sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit or pleading. (Don't trust this as legal advice, of course.)

      The important teaching of this decision is that sites which ENCOURAGE the posting of "scams" rather than simply soliciting the posting of stories about the subject, be they good or bad, do meet the legal test for defamation. Perhaps this is how it should be; or you might think so if your small business were attacked with lies and attempts to mobilize the blogosphere.

      Now before the negative mod points come whistling in like mortar rounds, let me say I'm all in favor of using the Net to expose scams, and doing so should be free from repercussions. But you know, that's the way it IS, right now. Just tell the truth and don't say "Company X is a sleaze, submit your stories to prove it". Is it much different, or less satisfactory, to say "In the interest of performing a public service for our readership, we invite you to post comments, good or bad, about the business practices of Company X"? Because you can do that. (Though only the foolish would rely on an internet post such as this one.)

      And for God's sake, don't serve ads for competitors of Company X, or suggest your blog will dissipate into the blogosphere if you get paid. You CAN use the net for People Power with very few accommodations to law.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by greenbird (859670) *

      The actual text maybe copyrightable, but one still has fair use, one can excerp bits and rewrite other parts. This ruling does not stop people drawing attention to the fac that they are being bullied. It's daft but its not fatal.

      I think everyone's missing the key point here. Neither you nor your lawyers can make any form of copy of the material or even read it out loud (that's a performance). For that matter the court can't either. The idiocy here has nothing to do with publishing the material, you can't even use it to defend yourself in court with this ruling. Fair use doesn't cover making copies for your lawyer. It certainly doesn't cover making the material part of the public record in a court case.

  • Turn the tables? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThreeGigs (239452) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @06:48AM (#22192334)
    So does this sword cut two ways?

    Can I send 40 different versions of cease and desist letters to the US Copyright office and then sue any law firm that uses one that looks a bit too similar to one of mine?

    Is an infringing cease and desist letter still valid?

    Is "Copyright Troll" going to be a new buzzphrase?

    Methinks this ruling will open up cans of worms the likes of which have never been seen, especially once the model is applied to the hundreds of legal documents that are basically boilerplate versions of each other (think leases, EULAs, credit agreements, and divorce documents for starters).
    • by budgenator (254554) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:53AM (#22192582) Journal
      Now that would be interesting,
      1. get copies of the lawyers boilerplate
      2. insert your business/personal name address instead of Dozier Internet Law ect.
      3. Register with Copyright office
      4. every time they send you a C&D letter, you send one back
    • Re:Turn the tables? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @08:09AM (#22192642) Journal
      It's only copyright if it's copied, not if there are coincidental similarities between two works. If you can prove that the cease and desist letters were copied off one of your 40, then I guess this lays the precedent. Anyway, even if I'm mistaken, the sword would cut the first way back at you, because if the field of cease and desist letters is as narrow as you think, chances are that many of your 40 cease and desist letters would be infringing on other previous letters.
    • by olddoc (152678) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @08:31AM (#22192722)
      Don't post the actual letter. Post your version of it that makes fun of the letter.
      Make it horrible: "We will send hit men to your home and torture your family to death"
      If the law firm protests about your "satire" let them show the real letter to prove the satire is unfair.
      • by pokerdad (1124121)

        Don't post the actual letter. Post your version of it that makes fun of the letter.

        Make it horrible: "We will send hit men to your home and torture your family to death"

        If the law firm protests about your "satire" let them show the real letter to prove the satire is unfair.

        We are talking about a law firm here; they wouldn't show the real letter, they'd sue you for libel.

  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @06:50AM (#22192348) Homepage
    ... can you copyright a gallon of petrol through the law firm's letterbox?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:19AM (#22192452)
      Mod parent +1 Inciteful.
    • The decision says that the person made out a prima facie case for copyright infringement under the DMCA for the issuance of a subpoena. Prima Facie is a very low standard. The actual decision doesn't address the copyrighting of letters, though there is probably no reason one could n't be copyrighted, and it doesn't address the issues of fair use, as least as far as the edited decision on the Dozier site shows.
  • This says a lot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:00AM (#22192366) Homepage

    The US District Court for the District of Idaho has found that copyright law protects a lawyer demand letter...

    That figures. Idaho potato rule: If they're big enough, they're old enough. It could only be less surprising if the ruling had originated in Utah.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:07AM (#22192392)
    Everyone should familiarize themselves with the judgement [dozier-int...law-pc.com]. It's pretty amazing. Here are some choice bits... oh, assuming the judge didn't copyright it. Fair use should apply.

    To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be original to the author. Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 345 (1991). Original means that the work was independently created by the author and possesses some minimal degree of creativity.

    Can someone share w/me the "minimal degree of creativity" involved in writing a cease and desist letter, which is not (typically) a form of artistic expression in any way?

    If the cease and desist letter were in haiku form, maybe. If it were sung to music, perhaps. But if its purpose is strictly as a utility and legal document, then where is the creative component?

    The required level of creativity is extremely low; the work must "possess some creative spark, 'no matter how crude, humble or obvious' it might be." Id. (internal citations omitted). Copyright protection does not extend to facts or ideas. Wright v. Warner Books, Inc., 953 F.2d 731, 735 (2d Cir. 1991).

    So? What is that creative spark?

    17 U.S.C. Section 102(b). 43SB asserts that the Sheppard Letter is essentially a work detailing a process for the owner of the Website to follow in taking down remarks made about Melaleuca and its CEO.

    What is the creative component of "take this off your website?" If merely offering such a "process" is the creative spark, then might I suggest it is in the public domain? And if not, surely it is a derivative of the works of others...

    Besides, isn't' the area of intellectual "property" generally covering "methods" patent law, not copyright law?

    I can't wait for people to issue takedown letters on takedown letters on takedown letters. In fact, I would like to now and forever establish as prior art (and creative spark) my work entitled the recursive cease-and-desist letter!

    "The recipient of this takedown notice is hereby ordered to take this very take-down notice from your Web site immediately."

    See, it really is creative expression: An expression of irony and disgust.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "The recipient of this takedown notice is hereby ordered to take this very take-down notice from your Web site immediately."

      "The recipient of this takedown notice is hereby ordered to take down this very take-down notice from your Web site immediately."

      Fixed it. Now it's good to go.
    • by S.O.B. (136083) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:24AM (#22192462)
      From the U.S. Constitution:

      To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.


      How is a cease and desist letter related in any way to "Science and useful Arts"?

      I think that Idaho judge has smoked too many potatoes.
      • by phorest (877315)

        How is a cease and desist letter related in any way to "Science and useful Arts"?

        Raising bad manners to an art form perhaps?...

      • by QuantumG (50515)

        How is a cease and desist letter related in any way to "Science and useful Arts"?
        How is Britney Spears?

        How isn't cooking? (recipes are not copyrightable - for now).
        • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:56AM (#22193204) Homepage
          Britney Spears is neither science nor an art; she's a person. Her music would fall under science; that it's bad music doesn't matter, since we don't want the government protecting or not protecting works based on their artistic taste.

          Cooking is a useful art, and recipes can be patented if they meet the requirements of a patent. This does occur from time to time -- there's a patent for a peculiar kind of peanut butter and jelly sandwich, IIRC -- but often recipes lack novelty or nonobviousness, or the inventor doesn't bother getting a patent. The written expression of a recipe -- as opposed to the process for cooking that the recipe describes -- is copyrightable if sufficiently creative. But anyone could copy the process and reword it, and where the wording was not creative or original (e.g. "Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees") that wouldn't be protected at all. The difficulty in writing succinct, clear, copyrightable recipes is such that most people don't bother.
      • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:51AM (#22193174) Homepage
        How is a cease and desist letter related in any way to "Science and useful Arts"?

        It's a literary work, albeit not much of one. So it falls under science (which, in the late 18th century English of the clause, roughly means 'general knowledge' as opposed to the useful arts, which roughly means 'applied technology').
    • by QuantumG (50515)

      Can someone share w/me the "minimal degree of creativity" involved in writing a cease and desist letter, which is not (typically) a form of artistic expression in any way?

      If the cease and desist letter were in haiku form, maybe. If it were sung to music, perhaps. But if its purpose is strictly as a utility and legal document, then where is the creative component?

      Sounds like the argument used to suggest that software has no creative aspect.. or blueprints.. or manuals.. or recipes.

      All of which (expect the last one, for some strange reason) are protected by copyright.

    • You send a guy dressed up like a shark to the victim's place of business (Knock-knock-knock. "Candygram"), and when he opens the door, deliver the C&D letter in song (Currently in the victim's choice of Country-Western, Rock and Roll, or Traditional Blues). Why, it's genius! A whole new business model in support of America's #1 service industry, Lawsuits. Think of the possibilities!

      Now if I could just find that harmonica.
    • Here are some choice bits... oh, assuming the judge didn't copyright it.

      Don't worry, he can't. US government works are uncopyrightable. Now, if only this were true for all other governmental agencies and the like.

      Can someone share w/me the "minimal degree of creativity" involved in writing a cease and desist letter, which is not (typically) a form of artistic expression in any way?

      Choice of wording, basically. It's not as though there is only one possible way to write a C&D. The threshold for creativit
      • Anyway, this isn't a huge deal. There is a process involved in fighting these things, like a long if-then-else statement. All that's happened here is that the first 'then' that could help the defendant didn't work out. There's little doubt that one of the later ones will, but the case hasn't gotten to there yet.

        It's not a huge deal - unless the innocent victim doesn't have the money to see the long process through. And even when the victim has plenty of money (e.g. SCO vs. IBM), it is a huge waste of tim

  • by samuel4242 (630369) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:07AM (#22192396)
    1) Scan it.
    2) Blur 90% of the text.
    3) Post it.
    4) Build a headline from the nastiest sentence.
    5) Decide whether you're going to fight or switch.
    6) Move on.
  • and if you can't copyright it you can certainly patent it or make it a trademark or claim it is a trade secret. There's even people claiming they can copyright mere listings of ingredients these days.

  • Does this also mean (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Travoltus (110240) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:13AM (#22192418) Journal
    If I send a nasty email to someone and declare it copyrighted, they can't distribute it?

    I say that because of a recent story about a guy who sent a girl a mean email and she published it on her blog and he received death threats in response...
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      Umm, it's already copyrighted.. and yes, redistributing email without permission is copyright infringement.

  • FYI (Score:5, Informative)

    by fred911 (83970) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:13AM (#22192424)
    Here's the C&D that was decisioned. They haven't managed to take this down. Then again, it's now part of the public record.

    http://www.citizen.org/documents/directbuycd.pdf [citizen.org]

    • A Review (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:57AM (#22192594)
      As an aficionado and longtime aesthetic critic of the cease-and-desist oeuvre, I have only a few moments to offer my review of this stirring and emotionally riveting form of creative mastery.

      In the work's opening, we are introduced to the main characters, along with two settings (Virginia and Arizona) and a modern time period to help orient the reader. I was particular moved by the bold, overly-large font that portrayed (to your humble reviewer) the confidence and professionalism of our protagonist, especially when contrasted with the smaller left-justified (bravo!) intro that followed (no spoilers here!). The pure wit and joy I experienced by the artist's inclusion of a (purely tongue-in-cheek, I assume) disclaimer that this artistic work is only intended "for negotiation and settlement purposes" is difficult to communicate, but suffice it to say that by the third or fourth paragraph I was dabbing tears of pure joy from my cheeks with a handkerchief. Kudos!

      The backstory that followed was a bit dry for my taste, but it was over quickly and followed by a riveting bulletpointed list of accusations that had me on the edge of my seat.

      My friends, I do not want to spoil any of the chills and surprises that await, but do not pass up on your chance to experience this instant classic-- that is, before it's followed by the inevitable movie version.
  • by samuel4242 (630369) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:13AM (#22192426)
    I respect Public Citizen and I'm glad they're out there fighting the good fight, but I would never rely on their legal judgement alone. I've been in conversations with some of the lawyers there and they were obsessed with finding a way to "prove" that practically any P2P use is "fair use". At some point, making copies is just making copies for losers who won't pay because they're too cheap. Sure, there are great cases with handicapped kids, but the folks I spoke with at Public Citizen seemed obsessed with finding some legal justification for how making 40,000 copies for your closest and most personal friends was some how "fair". It ain't gonna happen folks.

    If you get into trouble and your bottom is on the line, make sure you get a lawyer with enough political sense to figure out how everyone thinks about the case. Not just the dreamers of the techno-utopia who believe that somehow everyone is going post all of their work for free and the farmers and carpenters will be so inspired that they'll just build us McMansions and fill the fridge with steaks.
    • by nomadic (141991)
      I respect Public Citizen and I'm glad they're out there fighting the good fight, but I would never rely on their legal judgement alone. I've been in conversations with some of the lawyers there and they were obsessed with finding a way to "prove" that practically any P2P use is "fair use".

      What are they, the EFF?

      If you get into trouble and your bottom is on the line, make sure you get a lawyer with enough political sense to figure out how everyone thinks about the case.

      Every lawyers main goal should
  • by nameer (706715) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:26AM (#22192470)
    From the ruling [dozier-int...law-pc.com]:

    Under the DMCA, the copyright holder need only plead a prima facie case of copyright infringement. In re: Verizon Internet Servs., Inc., 257 F. Supp. 2d 244, 263 (D.D.C. 2003). A certificate of registration of a copyright constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and facts stated in the certificate. 17 U.S.C. Section 410(c). Melaleuca has registered the Sheppard Letter with the Copyright Office. See Supplemental Filing Re: Copyright Registration Certificate for Sheppard Letter, Ex. 1 (Docket No. 18-2). This is prima facie evidence that the Sheppard Letter is copyrighted and satisfies the first prong of demonstrating a prima facie case of copyright infringement. 43SB has valid arguments and enforcing this subpoena pre-litigation may have far-reaching consequences, therefore some preliminary examination of the potential claim is necessary. However, the Court will not go into an in-depth analysis of the merits of a copyright infringement claim in determining whether to quash this subpoena. It is sufficient in this instance that Melaleuca has registered the Sheppard Letter with the Copyright Office.
    All the court said is that the prima facie evidence exists to let the subpoena stand for the simple reason that the slimy law firm registered the copyright of the letter. However, the court acknowledges that the defendant has "valid arguments" on their claim that the letter cannot be copyrighted. The court simply says that the analysis of those claims is beyond the scope of determining to quash the subpoena, and the prima facie case is sufficient to let the subpoena stand. As I see it, the defendant will now have to go to court and challenge the copyright directly instead of the validity of the subpoena. Of course, this is /., and I am not a lawyer.
    • by houghi (78078)

      Of course, this is /., and I am not a lawyer.

      Would it not be more obvious that if somebody actualy IS a lawer and wants you to take his advice, that he would state so specificaly? Sort of an opt-in instead of an opt-out.
      Of course, this is /., and I am not a lawyer.
    • I think you meant to put: "..the law firm that some may consider slimy.."

      There - just saved your ass from a libel suit!
    • All the court said is that the prima facie evidence exists to let the subpoena stand for the simple reason that the slimy law firm registered the copyright of the letter. However, the court acknowledges that the defendant has "valid arguments" on their claim that the letter cannot be copyrighted. The court simply says that the analysis of those claims is beyond the scope of determining to quash the subpoena, and the prima facie case is sufficient to let the subpoena stand. As I see it, the defendant will now have to go to court and challenge the copyright directly instead of the validity of the subpoena. Of course, this is /., and I am not a lawyer.

      You pretty much took the words right out of my mouth... except for that last part.

  • by Jugalator (259273) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:29AM (#22192482) Journal
    ... I think it was lost among some in law enforcement a long time ago.
    Do some lawyers, and apparently some judges, even remember why copyrights exist anymore?

    Copyrights are there to among other things let the copyright holder be credited for the work and benefit financially from the work through being an exclusive distributor of the work.

    So a big WTF at this.
    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:31AM (#22192488) Homepage Journal
      Copyright exists to promote the sciences and the useful arts. And to answer your question, yes, most everyone has forgotten this, if they ever knew.

      • by Homology (639438) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @08:49AM (#22192826)

        Copyright exists to promote the sciences and the useful arts. And to answer your question, yes, most everyone has forgotten this, if they ever knew.

        Indeed, it also a time limited monopoly not intended to last to the end of days, even though some American corporations tries to make it that way. One of the reason it is a time limited monopoly is in recognition of the fact that science and art is not done in a vacuum but builds upon work and ideas of others.

        • by sqlrob (173498)
          Let's for the moment assume extensions are done and over with.

          I have a child, today, and a movie is released, today. She will likely be dead before the copyright expires. How is that limited?
          • by Homology (639438)
            The time limits have been extended several times, as I alluded to in my post. I think that the present copy right time limits are far too generous.
    • Do some lawyers, and apparently some judges, even remember why copyrights exist anymore?

      Copyrights are there to among other things let the copyright holder be credited for the work and benefit financially from the work through being an exclusive distributor of the work.


      As other posters have said, copyright exists to promote the progress of science. It does not exist to give credit to the author, nor to let the author benefit from his work; those are means, not ends. I suggest you remember that. ;)
  • by ThePilgrim (456341) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:52AM (#22192576) Homepage
    Sir,

    I represent Infinite monkeys Inc. As you may be aware our company has bean attempting to recreate the complete Works of Shakespeare.Unfortunately we are still several melenia away from the conclusion of this project.

    However our research has turned up all variations on Cease-and-Desist letters. And therefor we claim copyright on all such works.

    Yours

    Lord High Peanut Counter
  • The real purpose is to make more money for those social vampires that we call lawyers. Many small businesses and individuals will publish a cease & desist letter as a way of getting help and also shaming the company suing them into backing off -- all at little cost to them.

    What this does is to mean that the guy being sued has either to give in or employ a lawyer at their usual rip off rates.

    I have (unfortunately) had enough experience with these parasites, in my own case and helping other dads try to

    • I wonder if you could claim that the letter was a gift.

      In the UK you are allowed to keep unsolicited gifts and do as you wish with them. As before you received the letter it is likely that you had no contact with the law firm this may be an avenue of attack.
      • by Quila (201335)
        In the US by law anything you receive unsolicited through the mail is your property, period.
        • by egomaniac (105476)
          Sure. But that doesn't give you the right to make copies of it, otherwise [Shady Publishing Company] could just have someone mail them a copy of [Popular Book] and then publish it with impunity.
  • There is good news. Using copyrighted works for court-type purposes has been deemed fair use by the courts, in the same way that you can use copyrighted works for parody. This means you can share copyrighted works with your lawyer, for example. Maybe, since so many people use random strangers from the internet as lawyers, people can still post cease-and-desist (C&D) letters on their blogs.

    Perhaps it is only infringement to use the copyrighted C&D letters for their intended purpose, without a license
    • by WK2 (1072560)
      I am following up to my own post, after reading TFA.

      It appears that the question I brought up above is exactly what this ruling is about. Apparently, the courts have decided to get between victims and their (random stranger) lawyers. Sickening. Perhaps this will get overturned.

      If you can afford a real lawyer, it is probably better to consult one of those. But if you have no money, consulting random strangers might be your only option. It is a sad state of affairs which has just gotten worse.
      • by ErikZ (55491) *
        Most judges were lawyers once. This is to force citizens to consult (pay for) lawyers instead of posting it on the internet and getting other people's advice. Which really isn't the point of posting it on the Internet. People do that to expose bullying lawyers.
  • So now The Pirate Bay will be sued for copyright infringement of cease and desist notices? After all, they publish all such letters (with mocking replies) on their web site legal page.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mmcuh (1088773)
      Yes, of course. Assuming that Swedish courts care one bit about US precedents.
  • Everyone publish every CDL you recieve. Would this stop the courts from enforcing copyright claims on CDL (an huge influx of such claims)? I am definately not a lawyer. Thank god.
  • Why not... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @08:44AM (#22192788)
    ... copyright your name and contact info? Anyone you don't want contacting you would then be subject to legal action if they don't destroy their unauthorized copies. Their ability to continue further contact could be enough to prove they have not complied.
  • The victorious lawyer must be a regular slashdot reader.
  • John W. Dozier, Jr., Esq., President of Dozier Internet Law, PC, was not surprised by the decision.

    Of course he wasn't: it was in Idaho that this happened. The state that has more cows than people. I am not about to gasp anytime soon.

    Meanwhile, the judge obviously has no idea whatsoever what copyright means or was devised for. I know you're in Idaho, but have an idea out there, moron. The intellectual property of the lawyer (assuming he has any) is not protected by this law. It is not in any way relevant t
  • by spiritraveller (641174) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:50AM (#22193170)
    This is not a decision approving the tactics of law firms that try to silence people that they sue (though it may have that temporary effect).

    The only issue here was whether to quash the subpoena to identify the person who posted the C&D letter. All you have to show to support such a subpoena is a prima facie case. That means that you only have to show that you have met the initial elements of your claim. Meaning that they posted something and it was your copyrighted work.

    The question of whether this is Fair Use (and I can't imagine that it wouldn't be) has not been decided. That's not part of the prima facie case of copyright infringement, rather, it is an affirmative defense that the defendant must raise and argue.

    Really, the judge should have taken note of the First Amendment implications of all this and quashed the subpoena anyway.... I mean, really.

    The Defendant will now have to litigate the case, but if he wins, the "precedent" will be just as persuasive, if not more.
  • Instead of simply posting the entire unaltered content of a C&D letter and hoping for feedback, just break it apart into sections, and cite all the relevant quotations from it that apply (correctly crediting the source, of course), with appropriate filler in between quotations that makes the resultant work something (anything at all!) more than just a parroting of the letter. Even people with no artistic talent like myself could probably pull this off. Obviously, you can completely leave out things li
  • Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that the bulk of U.S. law had always said that a letter or other written communication was always the property of the person who received it, not the sender. The act of delivery transfers ownership to the recipient. The theory is similar to the way that the owner of a house, rather than the architect who built it, has certain implicit rights to the design (like to right to photograph it, for instance), and the way that the owner of a physical painting is allowed to
  • Public Citizen should help them appeal this decision to a non-fascist superior judge. And when it's overturned, the original judge's record should be checked for other fascist, or just retarded, rulings. Those rulings should count against their promotions, raises and pensions. When there are enough overturns, they should have their judge robes torn up. And really serious ones should see them tried for obstruction of justice, if nothing else.

    Judges are generally good deciders. But that lets the rest get a fr
  • . . .retarded Slashdot readers.

    The writer of a letter does not "copyright a letter." The copyright is automatic, if it qualifies, which it clearly would if it's more than a few sentences long. This has been the law, almost everywhere in the world, for decades.

    Copyright does not cover all possible uses of the protected material. Fair use includes things like reporting news, and educational purposes.

    And in the end, this is utterly, completely, totally meaningless anyway. If you get a C&D letter, there are
  • by Fnord666 (889225) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @12:46PM (#22194416) Journal
    Here [internetlibrary.com] is a nice, short summary of what was really decided by the judge in this case, which has almost nothing to do with what the linked article said was decided.

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