Copyright clearance (was Re: Classic Hardware DocumentationProject)

From: Richard Erlacher <>
Date: Fri Nov 19 01:31:52 1999

It can go either way. The information itself is likely to be property of
the US Gov if it, and the hardware to which it pertains, was developed under
U.S. contract. Nonetheless, unless the manual was actually printed by the
GOV it may be copyrighted by the developer of the manual. You have to look
at the copyright declaration in the document.

With hardware documentation which was freely and customarily given away,
e.g. separately from the hardware itself, like the OEM manual for a floppy
drive, it's unlikely the copyright can be claimed to be of any substantial
value. The owner of the copyright can probably cause you to stop
publishing, posting, and distributing it, but since it was never sold,
violating the owner's copyright cannot be interpreted as substantial damage
to the owner, hence no basis for judgment for damages exists. Another thing
is that if you publish the information in a format different from that in
which it was published, i.e. flowed around the embedded illustrations in a
different way, though it damages the value by fouling up references to the
figures, it makes your document not necessarily the one which was
copyrighted to the owner. It just depends on how useful the resulting
document is.

I don't know how helpful it is to know these things, but it's always useful
to remember that nothing's etched in concrete where courts, judges, and
lawyers are involved. Everything's subject to interpretation. It's just
hard to imagine a court awarding damages to the holder of a copyright on a
document pertaining to, and only to, a specific piece of hardware, the owner
of which is the one party to whom that information is of interest, since it
was for his benefit that the information existed in the first place, and it
was generated to support the sale of that hardware, which purpose was
clearly fulfilled at some time in the past.

-----Original Message-----
From: Don Maslin <>
To: Discussion re-collecting of classic computers
Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 10:28 PM
Subject: Re: Copyright clearance (was Re: Classic Hardware


>> Must be some docs for a government contract prepared outside of the
>> contract at Rolm's (or the prime contractor's) expense. Often, anything
>> printed under a government contract is not copyrighted.
>I suspect that the distinction is whether the material was developed at
>government expense rather than who printed it. After all, it is the
>content that is copyrighted, not the manual itself.
> - don
Received on Fri Nov 19 1999 - 01:31:52 GMT

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