Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 1, No. 80. Monday, 15 Oct 1990.
(1)   Date:   Mon, 15 Oct 90 13:20:12 EDT                    (15 lines)
      From:   "Michael S. Hart" <HART@UIUCVMD>
      Subject:      Re: SHK 1.0075  New On-Line Shakespeare Resource!
(2)   Date:         Mon, 15 Oct 90 13:46:46 EDT              (62 lines)
      From:         Ken Steele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
      Subject:      Copyright and OTA Texts
(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date:   Mon, 15 Oct 90 13:20:12 EDT
From:   "Michael S. Hart" <HART@UIUCVMD>
Subject: 1.0075  New On-Line Shakespeare Resource!
Comment:      Re: SHK 1.0075  New On-Line Shakespeare Resource!
Am I to understand, that as an accurate representation of the originals,
including typos, that the markup you have added could be removed, and as
the US Copy Office has advised me, the resulting document would still be
in the Public Domain?
Would you have any objections to this?
Will you please post this note.
Michael S. Hart
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------37----
Date:         Mon, 15 Oct 90 13:46:46 EDT
From:         Ken Steele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject:      Copyright and OTA Texts
Michael Hart's question is understandable; the original quarto and folio
texts, without correction to inverted characters, added lineation,
or editorial interpretation of any kind, are not susceptible to
copyright and are in the public domain.
The issue of copyright, however, is not the sole issue regarding the
distribution of texts obtained from the Oxford University Computing
Services Electronic Text Archive.  Every scholar who obtains
copies of the Howard-Hill text files from Oxford must sign a license
agreement, guaranteeing that the texts will not be distributed to others
The legal question here is not copyright law, but contract law.  I, and
others at the CCH, have entered into a contractual obligation with the
OTA, and are bound both by law and by ethics.
The situation is very similar with purchasers of electronic texts
from the WordCruncher people, Electronic Text Corporation.  ETC offers
many electronic texts for use with WordCruncher which are in the
public domain -- for example, the CD-ROM which includes the Constitution
Papers of the USA.  If one were to reverse-engineer the textbase, and
strip out editorial alterations, one would have a sort of public domain
text -- but one would have violated the license agreement at several
Furthermore, it is not entirely clear that no copyright violation
would be involved in such a scenario.  Computerized texts have
challenged copyright legislation around the world, and every country
is responding differently to that challenge.  It clearly made little
difference whether a publisher set type from the original Constitution
papers or from an exact reprint -- in both cases the text was in the
public domain.  When the reprint is an electronic text, however, the
labour involved in accurately keyboarding the text is considerably
greater than the few moments it might take to duplicate the disks.
Perhaps a useful analogy would be this: it is legal to photocopy
the constitution papers (I assume -- unless special legislation
prevents this as it prevents burning the flag) but it is not legal to
photocopy a modern published version.  Copyright legislation
has responded to the advent of the photocopier by recognizing that
intellectual property rights also exist in the typography and
layout of an edition, even when the text itself is public domain.
Doubtless legislation will eventually resolve the complications
of copyright in electronic texts as well -- but the University of
Toronto, the Oxford Text Archive, and myself do not want to be any
part of the precedent-setting case.
The issue of electronic copyright is a complicated one, and one which
often makes for interesting discussion.  However, I feel obliged to
observe that the topic is well beyond the scope of SHAKSPER's
purpose, and to suggest that HUMANIST or GUTNBERG are the more
appropriate forums for the discussion.
                                  Ken Steele
                                  University of Toronto
                                  <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
                                   or <KSTEELE@utorepas>

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.