Need some advice on copyright law - non musical

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by scotchgirl, Nov 12, 2008.

  1. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    ok so say you research some information on someone in your family from a long time ago - that person died 60 years ago. You get all the information from members of your family and local newspaper archives, and the record of births/marriages/deaths.

    You don't use any information that was gleaned from someone else's research, just your own.

    You write a small article (around 500 words ish) which is published on a national website.

    Another member of your family then contacts you, asking you to remove the article because he believes it breaches copyright law.....because there is currently a book being written about the exact same person (which you have not had any previous knowledge of).....

    Could this be an issue? I am thinking that because knowledge available publicly and through family members was used in the article, that there is no copyright that right?
  2. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    South London
    If you can provide references for all the information you included ("personal correspondence with..." counts) then there's no copyright issue as far as I can see. I think it would be up to the person making the complaint to prove that the information you recieved must have come from their book, which it clearly didn't in this case as you'd not seen the book, and it hasn't even been published yet.

    I can see why this person might be annoyed, but it's what's known in the academic world as being "scooped" and can happen when you're basing your work on freely available information.
  3. FlugelD

    FlugelD Member

    Since you've published first, can they prove that they're not breaching your copyright? :)
  4. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    See that's what I thought, but the person involved is now cacking themselves because they think they're in trouble.....I told them to protect their own copyright as well and suggested printing off a copy, signing and dating it and marking it copyrighted to them, and then posting it to there anything else they can do?

    This article is actually on a part of the BBC can see why they would be a bit wary.
  5. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    There is a brief explanation of copyright here

    However, you have not made it clear just whose copyright it is alleged has been breached.

    A newspaper would have the copyright of its articles, so if these have been reproduced without permission, there would have been a breach. The clue is in the term copyright.

    But, if the relative is trying to claim a breach has occurred simply because a book about the same person is being written and will obviously contain similar, or the same, information (hardly surprisingly), provided your friend hasn't got hold of the manuscript and copied from it, he/she shouldn't have to worry about it.

    Just think about the number of books that are already written about one person, Sir Winston Churchill, for example. Provided it's your own research, no probs.
  6. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    When I said information gleaned from newspapers, I mean the person she is writing about was in the newspapers for committing an offence...all she's done is mention the fact that this person was arrested, and the sentence ( which she got from newspapers rather than trawling through court records from nearl 100 years ago). She hasn't ripped off an article lol!

    I told her the same as you said - about how many books are written about all sorts of subjects, using information that is freely available in the public domain.

    I don't think she has a lot to worry about, the other person is writing a full book....not a little article on a website, which literally skims the facts of the case - more of an outline than anything else.
  7. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    In my non-legally-qualified opinion:

    Arrant nonsense. The only possible breach of copyright here, as Geoff so clearly pointed out, is if the author has used someone else's research or quoted extensively from the newspaper articles without permission. Since the book is not yet published, it's neither here nor there what it may or may not contain. The "mailing a copy to yourself" thing is a bit apocryphal and wouldn't really stand up in court (in the unlikely event that it ever got there). The author would need to deposit a copy of the article with a solicitor to properly record their copyright in it.
  8. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    Ok, she has now spoken to a sub-editor of the BBC, who doesn't think there is any problem with anything that she's written.

    She has also spoken with other members of my family (the ones who gave her the information about the person she wrote about), and they all (bar the one who is in dispute) support her article and everything in it.

    I don't think she has anything to worry about, and I think she is being intimidated by the other author because of what someone said before - they are worried about being 'scooped'.
  9. I would put in writing a specific request to the 'complainer' offering to consider ammendment or removal of the offending parts of the article if they will explain, in writing, which parts of the article are subject to copyright issues and why.

    There may be specific problems (for example they may already, while writing the book, have come across copyright issues with some of the information gained from newspaper research and are simply passing on helpful advice) but more likely they will not be able to provide any specific problems and are simply trying to maintain their book's sensationality.

    Personally though, I would want to trawl through the 100yr old court records if they're available just to make sure my facts were correct and that I could identify an original non-copyright source rather than second hand published information.
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