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Posted by alvanx at Oct 13, 2010 7:40:55 AM
Re: German Menge-Bibel
(This was meant as one long post, but apparently there is a restriction on post length.)

What I found out is this (and I only mentioned my conclusions in my email):
1. problem: According to German copyright, it is not clear whether a website is a simple document or an actual piece of software. There are specific laws for software and there are specific laws for written text, but nothing for websites. In any case, however, formatting a text with html (or whatever) should not give an organization any copyright claims (let alone restricting its use). As aforementioned, copyrighted can only be something that is actually a creative piece of work. Simple thoughts don't count, and non-creative work doesn't count either.
2. problem: A website layout could be copyrighted if it was decided that a website was software (which, and don't take my word for granted, the paper that I read deemed the less likely). However, this would only be the case if the software was rather complex and actually was a creative work (excluding the ideas the work is based on). Simple text on a website doesn't match that criteria for me.
3. problem: A layout could be copyrighted under these conditions only if it wouldn't be a basic solution that anyone doing the same task would come to. The GUI of a software would probably be copyrightable. Adding html headings to a text would probably not. I'm not sure how this would apply to the presentation of the Menge-Bibel on, but I don't see a lot of creative work there.
4. problem: Even if a website including the layout of the text were copyrighted - that would only mean we wouldn't be allowed to use the specific chosen text layout. I haven't found any evidence that this would change the copyright of the text; it would still be in the public domain. We would, I believe, be able to use the raw material and even format it similarly in a module because that is how the original text was laid out in the first place. (Maybe in the situation that there was a copyright it might not be ok to use that material and work it back into the original layout.)

Conclusion: If I am not substantially underestimating the design effort that went into the website and severely misunderstanding German copyright law, or if I am not underestimating the amount of editorial work that went into their electronic text, in all humility I conclude that they don't have any claims on it, their text should be in the public domain, and they have no right to restrict its use for the simple reason that they digitalized it.

And even if it were not freely distributable, we would still be able to use the Zefania XML text for the simple reason that we do not know where it is from. You can't be held liable for infringing copyright on the internet unawares according to German copyright law, unless it is obviously illegally-obtained material. This refers to stuff like watching a movie online that is still in theaters, but not to a text that is in the public domain and could technically come from anywhere. Of course if it was clear or proven that the Menge-Bibel text WAS copied from the DBG website by the Zefania people AND that this was an illegal act, we WOULD infringe the law.

I will keep you posted on what I hear back. My fear is that I might not hear back either because they simply don't have easy access to their copyright information, or because they don't want us to know that they might be wrong. But for now, I am trying to hope the best and assume that they are working on it.