Re: Home pages

Gregory Alan Bolcer (
Fri, 20 Mar 1998 08:45:49 -0800

> > People borrow images, text, and applets, so there is no reason
> > why they shouldn't borrow cgi's.
> Congratulations, you've just archived your complete disregard for copyright
> law.

Okay, great, a guilty mind needs to confess.

Good point, although AltaVista states that their logo
and software are made available freely for non-commercial
use. I do not mirror the home page nor reformat the
results, so I am well within their usage agreement.
You working at Microsoft makes anything you do commercial
use. Don't you wish you were back in an ivory tower?

As for images, text, and applets. The only problem I've had
is with my cigar page. Cigar Aficionado's lawyers sent
me a nasty email telling me that some of my material that
had been scanned in violated their copyright, so I removed them.
Other than that, let's take these one at a time.

1) Images. Courts tend to be heading towards a 50% rule,
cutting excerpts form an image with still recognizable
features violates copyrights. Using images and
changing their colormap while maintaining the shapes
violates copyrights. Using parts of an image combined
with new images such that less than 50% of the original
work is a derivative image and not enforceable under
the original copyright and in fact, can be copyrighted
by the new author.

2) Text. Look towards the lawsuit where J.D. Salinger's
lawyer who asked all WWW pages with references to 'Catcher
in the Rye' to remove all text from every WWW page.
The courts decided that you can put excerpts that aren't
complete. A full paragraph violates copyright law. Two
sentences can violate copyright law. Phrases, paragraphs
with ellipses, sentence fragments do not. Same with music
lyrics, although their enforcement is a little more lax
as the music industry generally hasn't been enforcing
copyrights for lyrics, only the original music such as
mp3's. The rule of thumb is that 20 seconds of a song
can be used without infringing.

3) Applets. Gamelan has a huge selection of public domain
applets. Some pages such as CNN and Fox News have copyrights
associated with their applets, although the applets themselves
were taken from the public domain and probably violate the
agreement under which the applet was released. Try decompiling
the CNN ticker tape banner. The code is 90%-100% unchanged
from the public domain ticker tape and only differs from
the parameters it was passed. Code that's changed more than
50% is a derviative work and allowed to be an independent work
and copyrightable work. Using the CNN applet on your
home page with their news feed violates their copyright.
Downloading their applet, and embedding it in your own
page with the parameters changed does not. Downloading
it with the same parameters and embedding it on your
WWW page does.


You have to kill a lot of elephants to build an Ivory tower.