[Jandek] Re: jandek Digest, Vol 55, Issue 36

A. Chankin achankin at gmail.com
Fri Feb 23 10:43:44 PST 2007

Ah, come on guys.  You know better, or you really ought to.

"a letter is not actually a copyrighted statement, and in fact can said to
be "owned" by its recipient. So it's on the recipient's shoulders."

Sorry, but no, what you stated there is totally incorrect.

  A letter absolutely is a copyright protected from the moment the pen hits
the page.  It is NOT on the recipients shoulders whether to publish it.  The
recipient has zero legal right to publish a letter from someone else without
permission, and is breaking the law if they do so.

If you don't believe me, look up the law for yourself; I'll make it easy for
you to do so:

202. Ownership of copyright as distinct from ownership of material object

Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a
copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the
work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including
the copy or phonorecord in which the work is first fixed, does not of itself
convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object; nor, in
the absence of an agreement, does transfer of ownership of a copyright or of
any exclusive rights under a copyright convey property rights in any
material object.

As I mentioned the respect issue is separate, that is more of a personal
ethical question, to which I personally believe the answer there supports
the legal answer.

As for the "poor man's copyright" someone mentioned, that is again not quite
spot on.  A work is copyrighted from the instant you create it.  You do not
have to register it in any way for copyright to exist.  The poor mans
copyright refers to how one registers a copyright.  The only way to
officially register it in the US is to mail it in with the proper forms and
fees to the US copyright office.  Poor mans copyright refers to the idea
some people have that they can mail a work or document to themselves and
thus provide some evidence that they created it and when they did, and of
course the US copyright office wants to discourage you from doing that for a
lot of good reasons.  But the work is copyrighted whether it is registered
or not, or even if it is incorrectly registered.

408. Copyright registration in

(a) Registration Permissive. — At any time during the subsistence of the
first term of copyright in any published or unpublished work in which the
copyright was secured before January 1, 1978, and during the subsistence of
any copyright secured on or after that date, the owner of copyright or of
any exclusive right in the work may obtain registration of the copyright
claim by delivering to the Copyright Office the deposit specified by this
section, together with the application and fee specified by sections
708. <http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap7.html#708> Such registration
is not a condition of copyright protection.

Again, all of this is not to say that the correspondence can never be
published.  It is all just to say that it is Corwood's decision as to if and
when that correspondence is published, even if they sent it to other
people.  (Unless you are talking about some time in the future when the
copyright has expired, which is likely to be at least the 22nd century.)

It could be all public domain, right now, but only if Corwood chose to make
it so.  I haven't seen anything suggesting that has taken place, so in the
absence of any permission, people really shouldn't be posting bits of their
correspondence here or elsewhere on the internet.  I personally think it's
disrespectful, but that is besides the point, it is actually illegal.

Art C.

P.S. Lauren, again I agree it has nothing to do with the veil of secrecy or
anything.  This protection applies when you or I or Grandma Smith writes a
letter too, it really has nothing to do with Jandek per se.

 I also have to object to the distinction you draw between "letters" and
"notes."  There is no such distinction in copyright law.  Brief notes are
equally protected as correspondence.  I'm glad you feel it wise not to share
things out of courtesy, but you should extend that courtesy to everything
you recieve from anyone, even if it's brief, and keep in mind that not just
your courtesy, but awareness of people's rights is a factor to consider.
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