"Copyright? How Do You Spell It?" (Copyright Issues for Electronic Publishers and the Information Industry)

Searcher, January-February 1994 | Go to article overview

"Copyright? How Do You Spell It?" (Copyright Issues for Electronic Publishers and the Information Industry)


Driven by the winds of consumer desires, information technology is sailing way ahead of the armadas of law and order. New software and hardware promise to turn any and every piece of text or graphics users may lay their hands on into wonderful, storable, retrievable, replicable, circulatable databases. Amid all the huckstering din, the still, small voice of legality ("Hey, you don't own the copyright on that! Did you get the owner's permission?") fades to a distant murmur.

Even outfits that ought to know better, like trade press publishers, seem to have forgotten the legal problems. In the November 25, 1993 issue of Business Week, the "Information Processing: Bits and Bytes" column (p. 126G) contained an announcement of a wonderful software package from ALOS Micrographics Corporation called DocuWare Pressman. For $395, buyers could get a Logitech handheld optical scanner and a software that would transfer anything it saw into digitized images on IBM PCs and compatibles.

The software would then help index the images and retrieve them by keyword or date. It could even use optical character recognition to transfer the images into machine-readable text.

ALOS Micrographics is certainly not alone in developing such software. Look at the Fax and Find software from Caere Corporation described in the table on Communication Software in this column. In fact a number of standard text retrieval software packages now offer such capabilities for a few hundred dollars, as well as sophisticated fax management software. The capacity is everywhere.

Business Week's introduction to the product description not only does not mention legal questions, it plows right over them: In an article "Don't Clip Those Articles--Scan 'Em In," Business Week asks: "Are you one of those people who can't read a newspaper or magazine without cutting out stories, pictures, and other items you're sure will come in handy sometime? Can you actually find those clippings when you look for them a month or two later? And if so, don't you find it frustrating then having to retype your clippings into your computer?

...trade in your scissors and shoe boxes...."

And does the software come bundled with a black eye patch for the newly recruited copyright pirates? …

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