Ray Saintonge wrote:
Ray Saintonge wrote:
Another thing to keep in mind is the three-year
taking action on a copyright violation. If something has been on
the site for at least three years it is probably safe to keep. The
argument that continuing availability may result in new limitation
periods can probably be countered by invoking the doctrine of laches.
However, republishing in another medium, such as publishing a print
edition of Wikipedia, probably would easily restart the limitation
That's debateable. With GFDL the history of the material should be
traceable. A fairly recent case involving laches went against the
Church of Scientology because they had delayed the enforcement of
their rights. This was despite the fact that the limitation period
had not yet expired when they started their action.
Two points are worth noting here. First of all, in case it's not
clear, the doctrine of laches can only apply if the plaintiff knows
about the infringement and fails to complain. If, as is very likely, a
copyright holder did not know about infringing material on Wikipedia,
then laches would not prevent a claim based on the continuing
availability of the material within the statute of limitations.
Second of all, if the Scientology case Ec alludes to is the New Era
Publications v. Henry Holt case that I've read, I should mention that
laches was only applied to deny an injunction against publication. It
did not prevent a remedy for monetary damages.
So the notion he suggests, that anything that's been on Wikipedia for
at least three years is safe to keep forevermore, probably should not
be used as a "rule of thumb" for copyright problems.
I agree that laches in that case was applied to prevent injunctive
relief, and that a lot has happened since 1989: notably the spread of
the on-line world. Invoking laches before the expiry of the limitation
period would not be my choice of a first line of defence. One thing
that is certainly not clear is when the limitation clock starts
running. In the world of the printed book continuously renewed
availability is not an option; time must elapse between one edition and
the next. Laches can probably be invoked to prevent the extension of
the limitation period beyond three years as long as an unbroken thread
can be traced from the original allegedly infringing act to the act that
is used as a basis for action. The limitation period can probably be
viewed as the time within which the person should have known about the
The copyright owner should have a duty of due dilligence which duty
might be satisfied simply enough by periodic Google searches using key
phrases in his text. Something like keeping dated records of negative
search results might be sufficient to establish lack of knowledge. If
there were positive results, and he did nothing about any of them
(including ones unrelated to Wikipedia, and our downstream users who
have failed to trace their source as required by the GFDL) then invoking
laches after the initial three year period would be a possibility.
"Doing something" may be as simple as sending an informal request to
have the material removed from the offending website.