January 14th, 2006 by Potato

For the long and tortured life of this site, I’ve always reserved my copyright through the rather barbaric means of putting in the copyright notice at the bottom with the date of the last update. Considering how important this could potentially be, I’ve decided to look into the matter a little more.

Obviously, I’m allowing free, non-commerical reading/access to my content by the simple existence of this website, but haven’t made any mention of copying, performing, derivatives, or any of the other issues.

First and foremost, I’m not interested in releasing my stuff into the public domain: I have to retain certain rights, especially my right to later sell some of my crap. For example, if the site gets big enough an interesting enough, it may be possible for me to bundle it all together into a book form and sell it to those who love the site so much they wish they could put it up on the bookshelf and dust it once in a while (some people have strange ways of showing love, for example my cat shows her love for Wayfare by sneezing on her, and her love for me by sitting in my lap, purring, then getting frightened of random noises so faint as to be undetectable by the human ear, and jumping away in a panic, digging her claws into my groin for traction).

For the interrobangers out there who simply must know the motivation behind each post: no, I haven’t had any sort of publication deal, no matter how much I visualize it; this actually comes from election discussions, and how ineptly the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage Sam Bulte handled the accusations of corruptions stemming from the fact that she’s accepting huge donations from record companies and the like who want sterner copyright legislations… legislation that she drafted just prior to the election, which is languishing in parliament. (there are several different links buried in her title :) In the process of this, I uncovered a neat site: that details how each MP voted on, from what I can tell, pretty much every motion made in parliament. Could be a handy research tool, and a way to check up on your MPs after the election.

Anyhow, back to copyright: I’m a little torn on allowing people to copy my site. I know that if they did, I’d require a link back and a mention of the site’s title (Blessed by the Potato), or my real name for printed material. I don’t want to restrict someone’s ability to quote me if they’re writing an article of their own, and if say, Robert Munsch were to do me the great honour of performing Thump, I wouldn’t want to have him suffer the indignity of getting permission in writing; but I don’t want someone to just cut & paste the site whole cloth and put it up as their own (even with the required citation, it would still essentially be like someone else taking credit for my stuff). Obviously, I don’t want people making money off of my work without getting a piece of it myself!

As for derivative works, I don’t want to restrict someone else’s creativity if they can take something of mine and build off of it, but once again, want to reserve some rights (specifically, the right to make money :)

Some parts of the site have been opened up, though. For example, my WordPress theme (the style & layout of the page, the colours and fonts chosen, a limited amount of the functionality, etc.) is copyleft under the GNU license. That’s partly because I didn’t sink too much effort into it (so I wouldn’t be upset if it were stolen), partly because I know I’d never in a million years sell it, and partly because I based it heavily on (or more properly, made minor modifications to) the Darkfall theme that is itself released under the GNU license.

So, anyway, I’m thinking of using the Creative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5” license. Any opinions on that before I throw that into my page footers?

It solves all of my issues, I think (except my distaste for whole-cloth copying, though that is unlikely to happen anyway). I retain most of my rights so that if, by some miracle, a situation presents itself where I can sell my crap, I can. But, it also gives permission for a large number of reasonable uses without requiring specific written permission for each one — the issue there is that, as far as I know, a copyright holder must enforce his copyright to maintain it. So if, for example, I happened to find a site where one of my essays had been posted verbatim, even if it was noncommercial and had my name & website referenced, I would have to demand that the site’s webmaster take it down until they had negotiated permission from me for that particular use. If I didn’t, then if I later found out that someone else was selling that essay and demanded that they stop or give me my share, my claim would be void, since I had failed to enforce my copyright earlier with the free site, and thus my crap had become public domain. It really sounds like a pain in the butt, and with a license like this, I won’t need to worry about most non-commerical uses.

Of course, the open-source communist hippy inside of me might even want an even looser license, such as allowing any sort of derivative works (allowing people to build on my stuff without requiring that they also allow others to do the same to theirs).

3 Responses to “Copyright”

  1. netbug Says:

    Now I gotta call my publisher and get some stuff excised from “my” book.

    damn you!

  2. Wayfare Says:

    You actually don’t have to go to any of this trouble to protect your work. Under the Copyright Act your intellectual property is automatically protected once it leaves your head and becomes something tangible. You don’t need a copyright notice of any kind, although they are useful to help remind people not to steal from you (particularly on the Internet, where people seem to think everything’s free for the taking).

    I don’t have my annotated copy of the Act here (yes, I am a big enough nerd that I own my very own copy), but basically no one’s allowed to do anything with your work without your permission unless it falls under fair dealing or one of the provisions for libraries or academic institutions (you can be quoted on an overhead for example). Under fair dealing, people are allowed to use your work for review or criticism, reporting and research or private study.

    Obviously, it’s far more complicated than this, but for your purposes, you’re covered. If you want to waste… I mean invest… more of your time on the subject, the Act is available at

  3. Potato Says:

    You’re absolutely right of course (you did study this stuff at school :) the problem is I want to loosen it up a bit without losing all my rights. It could be that it’s just under the American system, but if I were to allow someone to infringe them once without setting limits on what’s ok via a commons-type license, then if I wanted to stop someone else, my case would be weakened by not enforcing them the first time.

    It’s sort of like what happened with the next Kings Quest game: it’s being developed by fans since Sierra/Vivendi has dropped the series. But even though they’re not going to sell it, and even though it’s not really going to impact Sierra’s ability to sell another Kings Quest game (just the opposite: it may stir interest and revive the series), Sierra had to step in and shut it down or they’d lose their copyright on it. Then, because of fan protests, the promise of the series, and the fact that it was going to stay strictly non-commercial, they gave the project a simple non-exclusive, non-commercial license to use their copyrighted characters, locations, and game lore to create a new game (essentially a one-group Creative Commons license)… they were, however, careful to forbid the use of any registered trademarks, since that’s another kettle of fish (so instead of being called Kings Quest IX: Every Cloak Has A Silver Lining, it’s now just called “The Silver Lining“).

    You’re right (of course you are, you studied this stuff :) about not needing a copyright notice at all in Canada… it’s there for the American shall we call them… smacktards who think that if a site doesn’t have one, then there’s no protection there at all.