[MUD-Dev] licensing

Vincent Archer archer at frmug.org
Wed Nov 21 09:58:47 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


According to Adam Martin:

> Incidentally, does anyone have any solid (i.e. non theoretical)
> knowledge about licensing issues for such things as novels by dead

Licensing issues for such things as novels is Copyright Law. Which
basically locks you out of names and specifics, but not ideas, for
60 years after initial publication of the works.

It doesn't matter (in theory) if the author is dead or not, the
copyright is part of the estate left by the author.

You can "renew" the copyrights by creating new works using the same
characters; these new works extend the copyright for all characters
included another period.

I think one good example recently was with "Gone with the Wind", an
original book by Margaret Mitchell, whose inheritors recently (well,
last century now :) ) funded a new "original" novel, with the same
characters, for the sole purpose of retaining the copyright on
Scarlett O'Hara, and all the others. You can use the Rhett Butler of
the original Gone now, except you run afoul of the new work (who is
so memorable, I don't think anyone even knows the title) copyright
which covers the same character.

> If you're offering a free product (MUD, etc) I suspect it is no
> different to offering a commercial one, except that you aren't
> sticking your head up so high above the parapets.

Exactly. The only distinction copyright law makes is personal use
(covered under fair use, i.e. something you do for yourself that
doesn't go out of the "family circle" which includes your spouse and
children) vs other uses.

For all other uses, you MUST contact the original copyright holder
to negociate rights. You may get rights for free, or for hefty sums,
it's all the same. Some of the copyright rights allow you
sub-licensing in specific areas (i.e. licensing to other, even if
you're not the original copyright holder).

The trick is finding the copyright holder. Especially in the case of
dead authors. Finding out the Tolkien estate is easy, finding out
which of his descendant holds the copyright for E.E. "Doc" Smith
works is harder.

You can safely pick Shakespeare, though :)

--
	Vincent Archer			Email:	archer at frmug.org

All men are mortal.  Socrates was mortal.  Therefore, all men are Socrates.
							(Woody Allen)
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