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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Emergency Enigma! Tabula Rasa Copyright?

Let's begin with a bit of self-exposition. I buy blank books. In them, I doodle, write, paste clippings, generally take notes on life as I find it --with special attention to enigmas. Enigmas are puzzles which, if not noted or recorded, go oft unremembered because the mind has many other things to do. I have bought one blank book a year since the age of 16. I now have 50 of them, some in soft cover, others bound in board and buckram. 

The one above was kindly purchased for me by Norma. It was sold online. A tabula rasa. My notes have consumed its inside cover and front page. This afternoon, however, after a half-century of using tabula rasas, I encountered something new on page 2. Observe:
It's a Blank Book!   The contents of this book, so long as they are blank, are protected under copyright law! My legal expertise is limited to a fender-bender sorted out by small-claims court in 1967, so I'm no expert, but it seems to me that all blank pages are now subject to copyright and unauthorized duplication is legally actionable. This post, itself, easily qualifies as a "review for inclusion in a...broadcast", so I feel safe. However, should you or I photocopy blank pages of anything --uncopyrighted unused typing, sketching or toilet paper-- there is no way to prove we have not violated the rights of this publisher in defiance of the law. As regards solution to this enigma, I confess myself baffled and ask you, my readers and colleagues, for advice. The future of blank pages, insides of envelopes and the backs of posters depends upon you.

29 comments:

  1. Wow, this is surely one of the most profound enigmas of them all! I've purchased many (very many) blank books in my time and I use them for many purposes (as you do). I have never yet seen one with a copyright page. This is definitely a first.

    I'm admittedly stunned. And I have absolutely no advice - but the next time I use toilet paper, I'm going to search the roll carefully to see if it has any copyright restrictions.

    My comment is dumb, but so is the idea of copyrighting a blank book.

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    1. Jon, your comment is NOT dumb, but effective and articulate. Greatest challenge to any thinker is stating a problem in a way that allows a solution, and you have pinned copyright lawyers down to examining the contents of our septic tanks. That's progress.

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  2. I suspect it just adds to our criminality. And today I am a knowing criminal, whereas yesterday I was not. A step forward? I am not sure.

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    1. EC., where law and possibility conflict, there are as many solutions as there are human beings. Sometimes a step forward can be a step backward in the right direction. This is why lawyers are often very good tap dancers.

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  3. Blank books today, who knows what follows? Blank checks and blank stares?! There must be more, but I've drawn a blank. Oops! Were those rights reserved?

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    1. Tom, I suspect our legal system is sometimes shooting blanks --good thing too.

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  4. Surely, the inclusion of this copyright notice in a blank book has to be an error of judgement on someone's part. No? Perhaps a severe lack of intelligent thinking was operating here. If otherwise, then I say to any company that includes such tosh in their product, "Prove it!"

    One thing's for certain, I haven't sought approval from anyone for the use of this blank comment box, although I must wait to see whether this comment goes public.

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    1. "Prove it" makes sense under challenge, Tom, but I suspect one cannot disprove the non-existence of nothing because it's at least a triple negative.

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  5. Ha...all those blank pages I've unwittingly shared and so breached the copyrights!;)
    Has the world gone mad, I ask myself?
    I think the answer is probably yes.

    The most profound enigma yet!! *smiles*

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    1. Ygraine, If sharing your excellent writing indicates a mad world then I have no complaint.

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  6. Dang it, this is seriously going to cut into my toilet paper photocopying hobby. I was going to suggest that you cut that page out of your book and burn it by the light of the moon, but I think you said you had already written on the other side.

    I keep buying blank books with beautiful covers but then decide not to write in them. My handwriting makes me wince, and I don't want to spoil my books. Therefore I write everywhere else instead - calendars, loose leaf, post-it notes, random scraps of paper. Is that an enigma or just a lack of common sense?

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    1. O Jenny, certainly this enigma shouldn't stop you from writing in your beautiful blank books. My own penmanship has devolved into piles of loops and lumps, but in an orderly book seems almost legible.

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  7. I think they own everything you have written on the pages of the blank slate. Or perhaps they retain the right to prosecute because you have defaced the blank pages by making entries. Any way you look at it you are in a pickle!

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    1. Good thinking, Emma. My hope is that they only own the space around my letters and not the letters themselves. This could, in legal terminology, depickilize the party of the second part.

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  8. Wow! That takes the prize! I'd rip that page out and trash it. Maybe pick up doggie dodo with it. Mail it back to the publisher of the blank book informing them that they have no right to my content and that I will no longer buy their products. I may be shy and polite, but if you anger me enough, watch out. I can be a loose canon! Thanks for sharing this enigma. I just mentioned the copyright to my lawyer husband who says of the copyright statement, "That doesn't mean it's true." He can be so dispassionate! Drives me crazy! LOL

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    1. I know the feeling --Norma and I are of such dissimilar personalities, sometimes I suspect we're 2 entirely different people. As to law, I'm uncertain, but pretty sure attorneys must get permission from the bench before mailing dog-doo to litigants.

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  9. As a comeback, I feel for Jenny. I have a beautiful, leatherbound book of blank pages. I daren't write in it in case I spoil it. What could I write that would be important enough to take such a risk?

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    1. My usual procedure is to modify the question away from any interrogative structure and punctuation. Whatever you write becomes important enough to take the risk. That's where the fun starts.

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  10. Oh, that is funny, Geo. The ridiculous has taken over and there is end in sight.

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    1. Thanks, Arleen. There is hopefully still room for the sublime as well.

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  11. So I post first or go check out all my previously blank book (I don't have as many as you, but I have a large number)

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    1. You probably won't find any copyrights. Most of mine are hardbound sketchbooks from Grumbacher and Strathmore, others were picked up at book stores. None besides this one posts copyright.

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  12. Hi Geo, I read this and it reminded me of your playful writing style. I thought you might enjoy it. http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/newtons-laws-of-marriage

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    1. John Quaintance's essay is delightful! Thank you, Chicken, for alerting me to it. I was pleased it closed on a happy note too.

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  13. OMG! More than 150 diaries - once blank paper - filled in my handwriting - which every graphologist easily can testify... And worse: what I wrote in other blank books, I not only tried, but often succeeded to sell! (In Germany the stern law adds: " & Not to be shown for money to larger groups or individuals)."

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    1. I know the laws are changing lately in many places, not just in the duration and terms. Recently, I read that German chefs can claim copyright over the arrangement of food on plates.

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    2. And an architect can always demand that you don't add another room to his building...

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  14. I am immediately drawn to photocopy reams of blanks, hence I suspect it is a work of devilment. A good humoured devil though. You have a new not blank book in the post btw :-) And I remembered to sign it!

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