From: <ArborLaw[_at_]>
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 17:00:40 -0400

Melissa Levine asks, with regard to placing correspondence to the government regarding antitrust, administrative regulatory matters, etc. online:
> Is the copyright to correspondence to the government or to
> government officials in their official capacity (such as these)
> still retained by the writer? Do the writers have to consent to
> having their letters placed <online>? Do they somehow become
> public domain because they are to the U.S. government? I assume
> not, but am curious about others' thoughts.

The answers are yes, under US law, copyright is still retained, and no, such works do not fall into the public domain merely because they are written to the government. However, even uses of an entire document may sometimes fall under the fair use doctrine. Traditionally there is a good claim of fair use for reportage but it depends on the balancing of all of the four fair use factors, see s.107.

There was an extremely long thread on this list last year on a similar issue--copyright in documents appended as exhibits to court pleadings in the Scientology case--which looked at the fair use aspects (as well as trade secrets) inside and out. However, I'm not sure how to access the archive to this list to read the thread, or if there is an archive; perhaps Trotter or someone else can help out there.

Carol Shepherd

   Carol Ruth Shepherd                          arborlaw[_at_]
                                             320 S Main Box 8403  
        business,                             Ann Arbor MI 48107 
 technology, entertainment                   +1 313 668 4646 tel   
    and new media law                        +1 313 663 9361 fax
==--====-==-=-=-==--=--====--=-=-=-====---===-=-=-====---===---= Received on Mon Sep 09 1996 - 21:04:29 GMT

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