Re: [ADMIN] Copyrighting MUDs

From: Daniel A. Koepke (
Date: 09/03/01

On Sun, 2 Sep 2001, Dust wrote:

> Recently I got into a discussion (a padded word for argument) over
> copyrighting MUDs on a message board, I'd like to know what the list
> thinks of copyrighting MUDs (of course with CircleMUD being the base)
> and other legal matters pertaining to that.

Everything you write is automatically copyrighted, unless you expressly
state that it is in the public domain.  You do not need to register to
obtain copyright protection.  You do not need to write a copyright
statement to obtain copyright protection.  Your work is automatically
protected under copyright as soon as it is created.  A copyright notice
simply serves to inform others of when the work was created and by who. In
most cases, they're not useful beyond that because they are not reliable
enough to substantiate claims (they can be changed, added, or removed).
For full protection--if you have a work that you're planning on making
money for--you should register your copyright with the USPTO and/or the
appropriate analogue in your locale.  The registration process costs
money, but provides a strengthened claim in lawsuits.  It's not necessary
to register to have protection, but it's helpful.  It is necessary to
register in the US before you initiate a lawsuit for infringement of a US
copyrighted work.

These things are generally, but not necessarily, true of most countries.
Always check with the appropriate authorities in your locale for complete
and accurate information.  In fact, you should double-check everything
I've said above with respect to the USPTO.  I am by no means an expert on
copyright law.  And especially international copyright law.  (I am a
programmer, after all.)

A few quick things that generally need clarification:

  * A copyright simply means that the author has the right to control the
    distribution of a work.  This is a good thing.  The author should be
    in charge of how his work is used to a certain extent.  Within the US
    and most other countries, the copyright owner does not have complete
    control.  The Fair Use Doctrine permits exceptions for quoting,
    criticism, parody, personal use, etc.

  * You don't need to write "Copyright (C)" ever.  If you want to include
    a copyright notice, simply write "Copyright" or "Copr."  The "(C)" is
    not, to my knowledge, a recognized abbreviation by the USPTO.  The
    circle C, the abbreviation "Copr.", and the word "Copyright" are all
    recognized.  "Copyright (C)" is, at least, redundant.  At most, the
    "(C)" is completely meaningless.

  * You copyright an actual work.  Something that has been realized.  Like
    a book, a short story, a program, etc.  You cannot copyright an idea.
    You cannot copyright names, titles, slogans, logos, or short phrases.
    That's what trademarks are.  You cannot copyright an invention or
    method.  That's why patents exist.  (Naturally, you can copyright a
    description of your idea or invention, but that doesn't protect the
    underlying idea or invention.)

  * The Circle/Diku license grants you the right to make derivative works
    provided that you abide by the license.  You own the copyright to your
    derivative work.  This does not negate or invalidate the original
    copyrights or the Circle/Diku license.  You own the work you authored.

  * Copyright is not bad.  It'd suck if you had no legal claim to the work
    you authored on your own time.

  * Be careful of work-for-hire arrangements.  Specifically, you may be
    unknowingly in trouble if something you're doing is within the scope
    of your employment.  (For instance, if you worked for a company doing
    MMORPGs and created a CircleMUD, your employer might have a legitimate
    claim to the copyright of your CircleMUD derivative.)  The other case
    is if the work was specially ordered or commissioned under certain
    conditions.  The employer or commissioner is considered the author of
    a work made for hire.

That's about it for now.


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