More on manuals plus rescue

Fred Cisin cisin at
Wed Aug 19 22:37:02 CDT 2015

On Wed, 19 Aug 2015, Paul Koning wrote:
> Reminds me of a guy who sold US military aircraft flight manual scans, 
> with his "copyright" notice on every page.  Never mind that such things 
> are in the public domain by law.

The ORIGINAL is in the public domain, and he would have no rights to 
restrict anybody else from scanning and distributing the original.
HOWEVER, even the flimsiest claims of enhancement could enable a copyright 
claim for a "derivative work", and protect copies of HIS scans.

Project Gutenberg ran into that in their early days.  They thought that 
they could scan modern printings of public domain literature, and 
distribute those as images.  But, although the WORDS are public domain, by 
dint of their typography, the modern printers have claim to those images.
Whether you could OCR a modern printing to get back to the original 
[public domain] text now might run afoul of DMCA, but not any rational 
copyright law.

Derivative work copyright will, of course, not stand up if the original 
was copyrighted and original copyright holder makes a claim of 

>> Copyright just doesn't work like that though...the original copyright 
>> holder /still/ holds the copyright, no matter if someone scans it to a 
>> PDF or makes a xerox copy. Under US copyright law, they cannot even 
>> make a "sweat of the brow" argument as that is not an accepted legal 
>> argument under US copyright law.
> Correct, that was settled decades ago.  There is also the possibility 
> that the original document may be in the public domain, either because 
> no claim of copyright was made originally and publication was before 
> copyright became automatic (1978) or because copyright applied 
> originally but was not renewed when it came up for renewal.  For 
> example, I have a Linotype typecasting handbook from around 1940; it's 
> in the public domain because its copyright was due for renewal in 1958 
> and a search of the records shows that no renewal was done.

and, of course, there are those who claim "abandonware" as if it were a 
legal process.
"I couldn't find the author" (not in top 5 hits on Google?),
"therefore it is no longer subject to copyright".

Expiration now takes a long time.
Walnut Creek CD-ROM had to recall a bunch of discs, when they found out 
that Edgar Allen Poe's estate still had a valid copyright claim to some 

There have even been incidents where people have altered/removed copyright 
notices in order to try to claim that an object was public domain based on 
their having received a copy without [surviving] copyright notice.

> Wikipedia has a lot of information on this because they are quite picky 
> about copyright, so they have an excellent database of all the relevant 
> rules (not just US ones but other countries as well).

And there are arguments to this day about just how retroactive the Berne 
Convention is/was/should be.  It relaxed the requirements on copyright 
One of the aspects that Intel lost in the Intel V NEC trials had to do 
with procedural issues on copyright NOTICES.

More information about the cctech mailing list