On 5/15/06, Anthony DiPierro
Is it illegal to claim you have copyright control
over something you
do not? I'm sure there are plently of laws against claiming you
*wrote* something you didn't, but if you properly attribute the
authors but tack on a false claim of copyright, I don't see how that
can be illegal.
As I understand it (again, I am not in any way a lawyer), the relevant
parts of U.S. copyright law are:
(c) Fraudulent Copyright Notice. - Any person who, with
fraudulent intent, places on any article a notice of copyright or
words of the same purport that such person knows to be false, or
who, with fraudulent intent, publicly distributes or imports for
public distribution any article bearing such notice or words that
such person knows to be false, shall be fined not more than $2,500.
(d) Fraudulent Removal of Copyright Notice. - Any person who,
with fraudulent intent, removes or alters any notice of copyright
appearing on a copy of a copyrighted work shall be fined not more
(e) False Representation. - Any person who knowingly makes a
false representation of a material fact in the application for
copyright registration provided for by section 409, or in any
written statement filed in connection with the application, shall
be fined not more than $2,500.
"Fraudulent intent" is a key element to these provisions. That brings
it all into criminal law where the standards of proof are much higher.
A lot of people who put up these notices have the good faith belief that
they are correct in doing so, and as I stated before they may still have
copyright on the layout of the page, but nothing else.