APF Chapter 6: Editorial Comments [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

Copyright Discussion

Formally speaking, the APF copyright situation is a bit murky. I would love to release the APF under some form of open document license, which would basically formalise the fact that everybody is allowed to copy and modify the APF as they see fit. Such a license would also be a prerequisite for being allowed to make more intensive use of other free resources such as the Wikipedia free encyclopedia.

However, with the APF containing so much quoted and contributed material it is not clear to me if I actually have the right to release the APF under an open license. Terry has, for instance, given me permission to use excerpts from his Usenet articles in the APF, but he is able to do that because the copyright resides with him in the first place. I surely cannot (and even if I could might not want to) release his words under a license that would explicitly allow people to modify those words.

Similarly, although the vast majority of people have contributed annotations to the APF with the full knowledge that their words might be copied verbatim or edited beyond recognition, no formal copyright transfer has ever been part of the deal. An open license would also make it possible for people to e.g. actually start trying to sell printed copies of the APF -- and that might in turn be something an original submitter would not like at all, and could lead to complaints or ill feelings.

It is for this same reason that my own project of selling printed versions of the APF for charity never came to anything. Although at one point I already had Terry's permission to go ahead, in the end I felt that adding the concept of 'money' into the equation, even for charity, would generate too much potential for problems. Better to just keep everything absolutely non-profit.

This turned out to have been a very good decision when in 1997 we received a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer who claimed that we had violated his copyright by quoting parts of the poem Desiderata in one of the annotations, and could we please tell him how much money we had made off of it, so that he could estimate the damages he was going to sue us for. We told him no money had ever been involved in the APF, we removed the poem, and we never heard from him again. Now I dare say that this was just a "can't hurt to try" approach intended to scare us (and everybody else his search engine threw up) into settling; if he had really sued us I am fairly certain we would been able to claim fair-use successfully. But the point is that nobody wanted the hassle, that it would have inevitably jeopardised our relationship with the Universities and ISPs who have been hosting the Pratchett Archive and L-space Web mirrors for free. And did I mention we could do without the hassle?

I will continue to think about the copyright situation for the APF, and it is entirely possible that in a future version some kind of formal license will appear. Until then, I merely claim the editorial copyright on the APF on behalf of Mike Kew and myself as editors, and I request that everyone abide with the informal requests and restrictions outlined in the previous section, Copying the APF.

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The APF is maintained by Leo Breebaart and Mike Kew,
who always welcome corrections, questions or new annotations.

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