No, not you. This is a brief introduction to the copyright of digital materials for the dummies who think that anything on the internet is fair game. Seems an Ebay seller took the liberty of downloading a catalog from my site and trying to sell it as their work. They sort of forgot to remove my watermark from the cover. I contacted them as well as Ebay & Paypal to file a complaint. Strangely enough, the seller took the item down.
Out of morbid curiosity, I checked some of the other offerings in their Ebay store. Sure enough, a few popped up as material picked from existing material on University or private websites. There has been a proliferation of digital offerings on Ebay in the past year. From what I can see, the vast majority consist of books picked from Google Books and the Internet Archive. Some are from free University sites and some are from private sites. Good old Ebay is becoming a mecca for bootleg PDF files.
I realize that a lot of people either don't know how to do a comprehensive internet search that includes the darker depositories, have connections too slow to handle large downloads or simply want to pay ten bucks for a disk holding a dozen or so ready made books and catalogs. Even if the material is all free to begin with. Or improperly presented as belonging to the vendor.
This seller in question asked me for proof of copyright ownership. Hence tonights post:
A Guide to The Difference Between Content and Package
Say you have a trade catalog. You'ld like to scan it and create a PDF file from the scanned images. The trade catalog was printed way before the advent of copyright. So you do the scanning, work some magic on the images to improve their color, contrast and legibility, compile the images as a PDF, do some more magic on the PDF file to decrease size and load time, descreen, etc. etc.
Where does copyright of a digital object come into play in this simple scenario?
1. The original trade catalog of a company that is extinct is not copyrightable by anyone living at this time. You may own the original. You may even claim rights to the disposition of that catalog in your will or asign rights to someone else for current usage with limits (i.e.; an historical archive). But you cannot claim copyright over the hard copy item sitting on your shelf.
2. You scan or otherwise image the catalog, adjust the individual images to meet your personal tastes, compile the images as a PDF according to your chosen settings and smile at your handiwork. What is this PDF?
3. A Portable Document Format (PDF) object is essentially an image container. A PDF does not contain text... it contains anywhere from one to a series of images. OCR is achieved, in most cases, by creating a secondary hidden layer that contains a good guess at what the various included images (font items) represent. That's your text part. The original image is still there, although now it contains a whole mess of invisible links to the hidden layer.
Update: As Luke Townsley so rightly pointed out, I can be scan-centric at times. A PDF created directly from a word processed file is not an image container. The textual fonts are real, or as real as a digital image can be. That said, the PDF as a file is the container holding the information, which only serves to further confuse the matter. So I correct my former comments to read:
3A. A Portable Document Format (PDR) document is a created container comprised of images, text, video objects, or other digital items such that the container functions as a file distinct from it's parts.
4. Now that you have your image container or package, AKA, the PDF, you have in digital format an object of your creation. Known to the intelligentsia as a hunk of Intellectual Property. Sure, it's an intangible thing composed of little electrical charges, those beasts that makes your computer seem alive. In the eyes of international copyright organizations, that digital object is your Intellectual Property.
5. You may hold copyright on a PDF because it is your creation. The original is not, but we are not talking about the original. And therein lies the core of this problem. When I slap my copyright on a PDF, or load it to my site (which displays a copyright statement), the digital object is covered by copyright laws of the USA, Canada and the European Union.
In summation, these bozo's who grabbed that PDF thought that they had the right to use it as they saw fit because the original was not protected under copyright. They even tried to bring up Fair Use. But Fair Use limits the use of the item to educational and research purposes. Personal monetary profit is not allowable under Fair Use.
For a better explanation of Fair Use, I direct you to the following video....