Terry Muncey radioera at YAHOO.COM
Sun Dec 14 12:49:07 EST 2008

I happen to be in what I call the old information business.   When I first got into this business, I spent well into 5 figures in legal advice and time in Washington, D.C. at the Library of Congress checking out copyright registrations and copyright expiration dates.  That was 15 years ago..  So in writing this snippet about copyrights and trademarks, I do have somewhat of a dog in this fight.

There are clearly two views about old information.  There are those who have spent a lot of money accumulating the thousands of pounds of documents and make it available to those who just want a single copy of it and make a business of doing this; and there are those who have some manuals who would like to massage their ego by making them available for free on the Internet.  I don't think that anyone would throw stones at anyone who has made an investment and would like to get a return and profit for the time and effort in doing so.  But the Internet is an interesting place to find all sorts of "free" information and with diligent effort on the part of someone needing a manual, it can usually be found one way or another, either free with a download or for a small price for reproduction and cost of digitizing, printing and mailing.  And guess what, some folks want a professionally scanned manual done on a professional scanner, not one of these one
 sheet of a page kind for $ 99 and are willing to pay a decent price for this service . . . that is what keeps the manual dealers in business.  There are many sites that post free manuals where you can't begin to read the parts values on schematics that keep us in business.  Lots of non-professional folks post digital copies that are poorly done and/or done at so low resolution that they are somewhat useless.

BAMA - did they have any legal right to post all of those manuals?  Well no, but then if anyone that clearly had a line on the copyright or ownership made a complaint to Mr. Grimm, those manuals were then eliminated from the BAMA list.  The BAMA site happens to be on a University server so he has to abide by certain University rules about copyrighted information being placed on their servers.  This is not the first instance where someone shut down Mr. Grimm's free manual listing . . . . I think you will see a missing link for TEN-TEC in this list, they complained and he took them off the BAMA list.... and this was not the only case like this as I remember it.  Many manual dealers were similarly called by Ten-Tec and there was a clear case that TEN-TEC wanted to make the money for purveying these manuals, so the manual dealers pulled them from their listings as well as BAMA.

If Data Professionals does, in fact, now own the copyrights and intends on eliminating all the free venues for getting these manuals closed down, then they should post a PDF of the document that gives them that right or just shut up about it.  Then let's see if they have the very deep pockets that it will take to put all these folks into FEDERAL COURT on a copyright infringement law suit because that is what it will take to completely shut down a many, many avenues for getting Heathkit manuals.

Someone in this thread made mention of publication dates that are in the public domain.  Just for the record, take this from one who has researched this issue thoroughly, that any copyrighted manual that was published and REGISTERED with the L.O.C. before 1963 and never re-registered for an additional 29 years is forever in the public domain.  Even the L.O.C. will not give an opinion as to whether something that was published and registered in 1964 is or is not in the public domain, but anything from 1965 forward falls under an entirely different set of rules being "copyrighted for the life of the author plus 75 years".  The life of the author can be an individual or a company/corporation and many that were in business in 1965 are still in business or have been sold with all intellectual property now being owned by the new owner.  But remember that there are two distinct aspects of publications like this . . . one is the copyright, the other is the
 trademark.  While the copyright can expire, as long as the Company that owned the Trademark is in business or sells the rights to another, the Trademark NEVER EXPIRES.  But as John Dilks has appropriately stated that the owner must defend his/her right to the copyright.  While I don't know the exact date Heathkit became Shlumberger or whatever they were called, got out of the kit business, for all practical purposes, lets use a 1980 date for this event.  It has now been 28 years and no one has defended anything with respect to the copyrights or trademarks as far as I know and if they have, it certainly has been kept a state secret.  If Heathkit didn't think that the copyrights were worth defending, it looks to me that Data Professionals bought something that is basically worthless.

It is one thing to own a copyright and get heartburn over someone making a profit from your copyrighted product, but it is entire another to enforce it.  Copyrights and Trademarks are in the "FEDERAL" domain thus to do something about someone infringing on your copyrights or trademarks must be sued in Federal Court.  Federal judges just hate these types of cases because they are hard to prove and even harder to prove how much money you were cut out of from a damage point of view.  

It is one thing to sue a large Corporation who has deep pockets but felt it had rights to the material and truly believed that your copyright suit had no merit, as opposed to suing an individual who decided to "give" a copy of a manual to a few friends or acquaintances and has no deep pockets and an empty bank account or just sold the manual copies for a profit.  AND KEEP IN MIND that giving away a manual gives the giver no profit so how did he gain by his gift?  Further it would be impossible to make a jury believe that in this day and age of the Internet that only ONE PERSON or ENTITY could only fill the needs from a world of Heathkit lovers in selling them documentation.

So folks, there it is . . . a lot to do about nothing in relation to these manuals.  Most all of the posts were pretty much on target, people will do what they will do and it is a big world and there is a need to get documentation for all the stuff being sold on EPAY without manuals since most of it doesn't work in the first place.  

I have some 150 copyrighted products and found out quite early in this documentation business that it doesn't make much sense to push good money into a Federal Court lawsuit for someone who decided to make a few bucks of copying your material since they are one leg out of bankruptcy in the first place.  So I  think that most of the worrying about sharing some manuals and the repercussions from this new so called copyright owner of Heath is a lot to do about nothing . . . . .

Just one persons opinion with a small dog in this fight . . . .and no I am not a lawyer, nor giving legal advise but thought that some of the pertinent facts should be presented to this group.  If you haven't guessed who we are, thats okay, but if you bought any QST-VIEW products of QST from 1915-1999 from ARRL , you can make a good guess who we are.  As ARRL runs out of their stock, we continue to provide ALL QST-VIEW dates or complete sets on CD-ROM.  (No this is not a commercial message), but since this is a HAM related site, availability info might be helpful to some of the readers.

Terry Muncey, W5OAS


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