Ronda Hauben on 14 Feb 2001 20:46:23 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Usenet archives sold?

From: scotartt <>

>I must say that I find this reasoning spurious. As is pointed out by
>someone else, anyone can start a usenet archive. Its not a 'closed'
>system. So Deja's archive is deja's, I don't see it's a matter of public
>policy. A matter of public policy might be whether the government was to
>fund a public organisation of some kind to archive usenet. What Deja or
>Google does is up to Deja and Google. 

Anybody can start one - but what they do if they start one has obligations
attached to it.

What is interesting about this new "corporate vision of the future" is
that they feel they can remove any obligations to any laws and can live out 
in the world without any restrictions as long as it is a business doing

If takes on to archive Usenet, that does *not* give it the
right to sell that archive as intellectual property to another business.

They may have the right to keep the archive available online and 
available, but if they feel they can just sell the archive at 
will, then that raises very serious questions about any business
who gets into this archiving activity.

>Second, a petition of 3000 people represents a tiny fraction of Usenet
>users (readers and writers), probably even a tiny percent of just Deja

Sure it is a tiny fraction - but it does make a significant statement
when over 3,000 people go to the trouble to express their opposition
to what some entity is doing.

The problem is that business entity's are (as they think at least)
immune to any responsibility to hearing what users say.

Many of the people who signed the petition also expressed their views
on what was happening which was nice to see. So it wasn't just a
signature, but also a record of comments by many of the 3,000 users
who signed the petition.

That is significant.

>> A different kind of entity than a business with bottom line
>> objectives is needed to take up the responsibilities of 
>> such an archives and to provide the research support that
>> the archiving requires.

>I don't disagree, but i don't think the "public" (meaning; 3000 people who
>signed a petition, or some other way to measure it?) has much right to
>tell the liquidator of how they may or may not dispose of their
>remaining assets (outside of course the general rules for these things
>which may be layed down beforehand).

Well good you don't disagree. However, there are laws about what can
be considered copyright property that a company can sell and Usenet posts
don't fit as such.

>The issue i *do* see is the selling of many millions of person's
>copyrights (Usenet posts) without compensation. 

Or without the copyright holders' permission to do so.

>But then, there *is* a
>legal copyright in *compilations* of data, whether you think that's right
>or wrong, that's the legal position.

No there is * no* legal right to copyright compiled copyrighted material without
the permission of the copyright holders. 

If there were such a right then you could compile two or three copyrighted books
and claim your compilation was something you could sell.

You would be in violation of the copyright laws, not the holder of a legitimate

There was a time when Usenet posts weren't protected by copyright laws, but that
was in the 1980's and that is, as far as I know, not the case now.

As far as I know each poster has a copyright on their posts and some company
can't just compile those posts outside of what fair use allows and claim
that they can copyright their compilation. If the compilation violated fair
use standards then it isn't that some company can owner  the compilation without
being in violation of the copyright laws.

Usenet posts are something that are owned by their posters, and companies may
want to act as if that isn't true, but that is then a serious problem for
the Usenet community.

The fact that just went ahead and sold the archives shows the nature
of the problem. It wasn't that they tried to find a proper place to put it,
as if they had wanted to do so, there were offers that they could have taken.

So we are left with the problem now of what google will claim it can do
with the archives that will serve its business need.

But at least let us be clear that the posts are *not* Google's intellectual
property, whether in compilation or singly, no matter what Google may claim.


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