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Re: [art_education] Permission to Use Ideas - copyright explanations

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  • MaryAnn Kohl
    On 9/30/04 1:49 PM, Judy Decker jdecker7@woh.rr.com wrote: YES - your posts are copyrighted and you still have ownership to your ideas. ... FYI about
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 30, 2004
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      Re: [art_education] Permission to Use Ideas - copyright explanations On  9/30/04 1:49 PM,  Judy Decker  jdecker7@...  wrote:
      YES - your posts are copyrighted and you still have ownership to your ideas.

      FYI about copyright:

      Legally, ideas are not copyrightable...only the exact wording of your ideas when written, or the illustrated interpretation of your idea, such as a photograph or drawing, etc. are copyrightable. Ideas themselves are not copyrightable, even if they are written down. Think of the idea of banana bread in all those cookbooks, or scrambled eggs, or whatever. You can't copy a cookbook's exact wording for banana bread and put it in your own cookbook, but you can write a recipe for banana bread in your cookbook that has the same ingredients as other cookbooks, just not the same exact words or description.

      But read further in this email, because there is something called a Confidentiality Agreement that does apply and might help you feel safer about sharing your lesson plans. It's under the section called "How Do I Protect my Idea?" in the middle of this email.

      I think how this all applies our  sharing our lesson plans is that the idea in our lesson plan may be original, but it is not copyrightable. The exact words we use to in our lesson plan, are, however, copyrightable, as are any illustrations or artistic interpretation of our lesson plan. This is only a brief explanation. So, I found some websites that explain the copyright concept fairly clearly and in more detail.  
      1.) The following excerpt is from: http://www.bitlaw.com/copyright/unprotected.html
      ome types of material are ineligible for copyright protection. Generally, these materials are either protected by some other intellectual property, or have been considered inappropriate for protection. The following unprotected works are discussed in greater detail below:
      *  unfixed works
      *  titles and short phrases
      *  ideas
      *  useful articles.
      Ideas, procedures, principles, discoveries, and devices are all specifically excluded from copyright protection. As stated in the Copyright Act:

      In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

      This specific exclusion helps maintain the distinction between copyright protection and patent law. Ideas and inventions are the subject matter for patents, while the expression of ideas is governed by copyright law. If copyright were extended to protect ideas, principles and devices, then it would be possible to circumvent the rigorous prerequisites of patent law and secure protection for an invention merely by describing the invention in a copyrightable work.

      2.) The following excerpt is from: http://www.ipwatchdog.com/protect_idea.html

      How do I protect my idea?

      Unfortunately, despite what you may have heard, there is absolutely no way to protect an idea through intellectual property law. Copyright protects expression and patent law protects inventions, and neither protect ideas. In both cases the idea is the first critical step, but without an embodiement there can be no intellectual property protection.

      With respect to copyrights, the best thing you can do is simply start writing, drafting or otherwise creating your work. A copyright exists immediately upon the original creation and fixation thereof. You do not need to do anything special to claim a copyright... you can immediately place the © in a circle and call the work copyrighted. Nevertheless, in order to sue for infringement you will need to have a federally registered copyright. The filing fee is only $30, so applying for a copyright should be done as a matter of course.  

      With respect to patents, many people will have great ideas, but will not be able to put that idea into a package appropriate for a patent because there is no invention, only a concept. To be sure, the idea is the all critical first step in the invention process. After you come up with the idea or concept you now need to put together a game plan on how to carry that idea through. The idea and game plan together form what the law calls conception. Conception is an important concept in patent law because in the United States it is the first person to invent that will ultimately receive the exclusive rights on an invention. That being said, it is critical that once you conceive (idea + game plan) you will need to be diligent and not let any grass grow under your feet as you move forward toward defining and experimenting with your invention. For more information on the invention and patenting process please visit the
      Inventors Workshop.

      The myth that an idea can be protected frequently stems from what many call the "poor man's copyright." With the poor man's copyright you simply mail your work to yourself and that is believed to somehow protect the idea. It is absolutely critical for everyone to understand that mailing your idea to yourself will do absolutely nothing to give you protection. If you do have original expression that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression it is copyrighted immediately, but not federally registered. All that mailing your work to yoruself will prove is that you had it as of a certain date, and that is only assuming there is a postmark on the envelope (which does not always happen) and the envelope is not opened. It provides no rights whatsoever.

      Similarly, the myth that mailing your idea or invention to yourself somehow protects the idea or invention in the form of some kind of poor man's patent. I have never heard the term poor man's patent used, but many believe that if there is a poor man's copyright there must be a poor man's patent. As discussed above, there is no poor man's copyright and, likewise, there is no poor man's patent. Mailing your invention to yourself creates absolutely no exclusive rights. To the contrary, mailing the invention to yourself and then doing nothing with it could be used against you later on to demonstrate lack of diligence, abandonment or even supression and concealment, none of which would be good things! The one thing that mailing a description of your invention can do is demonstrate that as of the date of the postmark you were in possession of whatever is included in the envelope. Given that the US patent system is a first to invent system, such a mailing could be useful evidence, provided of course the envelope does have a postmark and provided the envelope is not opened. Do not estimate the importance of mailing your invention to yourself. Cases are few and far between where this evidence is required, and again the point is to remember that no exclusive rights attach to or will be derived from such a mailing.

      But there must be a way to protect my idea somehow, right? Well, the answer is yes. If you can get someone to sign a
      Confidentiality Agreement then they will be promising not to use your idea without your permission. This is not a form of intellectual property though. You are extracting a promise and if the person breaks that promise you can sue them for breach of contract. Getting folks to enter into such agreements, however, is virtually impossible. The truth is that if they do not make such a promise and you tell them your idea they are free to use the idea. Signing a contract that says they need to keep your idea confidential only opens them up to liability. There are enough people around who just tell their ideas for free, so why sign an agreement? That is perhaps sad, but the truth. The moral of the story is that ideas are not protected.
      3.) This article is from the government's copyright page: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ31.html

      Ideas, Methods, or Systems are not subject to copyright protection. Copyright protection, therefore, is not available for: ideas or procedures for doing, making, or building things; scientific or technical methods or discoveries; business operations or procedures; mathematical principles; formulas, algorithms; or any other concept, process, or method of operation.

      Section 102 of the copyright law, title 17, United States Code, clearly expresses this principle: ³In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.²

      Inventions are subject matter for patents, not copyrights. Under certain circumstances it may be possible to secure patent protection for an invention or an inventive design for an article of manufacture. For general information about the standards and conditions of the patent laws, contact the Patent and Trademark Office at the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, Washington, D.C. 20231 or via the Internet at
      http://www.uspto.gov. The Office¹s telephone number is (800) 786-9199 and the TTY number is (703) 305-7785.


      Copyright protection extends to a description, explanation, or illustration of an idea or system, assuming that the requirements of the copyright law are met. Copyright in such a case protects the particular literary or pictorial expression chosen by the author. However, it gives the copyright owner no exclusive rights in the idea, method, or system involved.

      Suppose, for example, that an author writes a book explaining a new system for food processing. The copyright in the book, which comes into effect at the moment the work is fixed in a tangible form, will prevent others from publishing the text and illustrations describing the author¹s ideas for machinery, processes, and merchandising methods. But it will not give the author any rights to prevent others from adopting the ideas for commercial purposes or from developing or using the machinery, processes, or methods described in the book.

      If you want to know more, go to on of these websites (though they are MANY more):
      1. http://www.ipwatchdog.com/protect_idea.html
      2. http://www.bitlaw.com/copyright/unprotected.html
                             3. http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ31.html
                  MaryAnn Kohl

           Bright Ring Publishing, Inc.
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