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and if the resulting product doesn't compete with the original work.

Please note that this is a very cursory discussion of the concept of fair use. Check out the Copyright FAQ for more information.

Copyright and posted material

The free exchange of information through cyberspace has raised all sorts of questions about who owns that material. Is material that's posted to a discussion group still owned by the original author? What if it's repeatedly quoted in further discussion? What if you write a FAQ and make it publicly available -- do you still own the copyright?

The answer to these questions is yes, yes, and yes. If it's your original work and you wrote it down, the copyright is yours.

There's a common -- and mistaken -- belief that posting information to USENET, or anywhere else in cyberspace, puts it in the public domain. That's not true. Think about it -- if you paint a picture and display it for all to see, you're not giving up the copyright to it.

Q. What's the public domain?

Anything that's not under copyright is in the public domain. That means anyone can freely copy and distribute it. You can give copies away for free, or, if anyone's willing to pay, you can charge them.

As of 1994, most works created before 1922 are out of copyright and in the public domain. An author can also choose to put a work into the public domain by declaring, in writing, that he is doing so. That doesn't apply to most of the material that's posted in cyberspace. So most of the posted material you see -- whether it's a note in a discussion group or an article whose author is seeking comments -- is under copyright and belongs to the author.

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