Saturday, February 04, 2012

What you can find at .gov, if you look hard enough

Proof that the people at the Copyright Office have a sense of humor:

How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. Or, go to the Copyright Office website, fill in Form CO, print it, and mail it together with your photo and fee. For more information on registration a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph. 

From What Does Copyright Protect?*

[Edited to add: upon further reflection, I wonder if this was actual query received in the Copyright Office.  I know that in my time at the Census, we kept a board with the most bizarre things people said to the enumerators (without any personal information, of course).  I expect most customer service people have something similar, if only in their head.]

*I was looking at this to see if I could find out what it means in the U.S. for architectural works to be copyrighted. I wimped out and resorted to using Wikipedia instead.  This came about because I was looking for pictures of Paris, and there was a note in WikiMedia: "Photographs taken of buildings located in France can only be uploaded to Commons if the copyright on the building has expired, because the Copyright Law of France forbids the publication or commercial use of photographs taken of copyrighted buildings. The copyright term in France for buildings is the lifetime of the architect + 70 years + the end of the calendar year." In the PowerPoint presentations I'm preparing,  I was only planning to use a picture of one recent building (Centre Pompidou).  It is a spectacularly ugly building (at least until you get used to it) so leaving it out won't be that great a loss.

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