Dear Eric Scharf:
I've recently discovered your web site, including the reprint of the sixth chapter of Harry Rowohlt's translation of Winnie-the-Pooh. As the publisher of Winnie-the-Pooh and a long-time aficionado of the Bear, I am delighted to discover that he has so many friends in a virtual universe.
However, while I appreciate that your posting is made with the best of intentions - to share what is truly a brilliant translation of a favorite childhood classic - the material used, both the original English edition of Winnie-the-Pooh as well as Mr. Rowohlt's translation published by Ötinger Verlag in Germany, is fully protected under both U.S. and international copyright law. The reproduction of the chapter does constitute a breach of these laws and I must ask that you remove the chpter [sic] from your site and confirm to me that this has been done.
We are currently exploring ways in which it might be possible to grant limited site licenses to some Pooh materials while still protecting his copyright - and should we work out some solution will post it to the Usenet group alt.fan.pooh.
With my thanks in advance for complying with our request,
Christopher M. Franceschelli
On Tue, 9 May 1995, Christopher Franceschelli wrote:
> I must ask that you remove the chapter from your site and confirm to
Done and done.
Many thanks for having responded so quickly.
[The following is reprinted without permission from the Wed.13.Dec.95 edition of the Wall Street Journal.]
Matt Carlson's home page on the Internet used to feature pictures of Winnie-the-Pooh. But last June, after Dutton Children's Books said the images violated its copyright, the New Mexico State University student removed them. "I didn't want to mess with Winnie's high-powered lawyers," he says.
Copyright owners used to pay little heed to unauthorized on-line use of their material by nonprofit users like Mr. Carlson. While copyright holders have to defend protected material or risk losing their rights, nonprofit on-line use was considered too arcane. In addition, it isn't entirely clear that such use is illegal.
But now, with the spread of the Internet--and especially its World Wide Web segment, which includes audio and video--copyright holders are going after fans and other noncommercial reproducers. Never, they say, has there been a threat quite like the Internet. It is a medium capable of making endless copies of any material--songs, software, text, films--at virtually no cost.
"To lose control over the material can be death," says Eileen Ken, Playboy Enterprises Inc.'s vice president for new media. Playboy complained to about a dozen universities after it found that students were posting its photos on the Internet using their university accounts.
Tyco Toys Inc. sends a letter a week to stop home pages from displaying images that resemble its fortune-telling Magic 8 Ball toy. Paramount Pictures started several years ago trying to stop the many technically adept fans of "Star Trek" from spreading photos from the TV series and the movies. And Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. recently ordered the removal of sound clips of "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Hound Dog" from a fan's home page, along with images she had scanned from Graceland postcards.
"We don't want carpetbaggers putting up the digital equivalent of Elvis on black velvet," says Mark Lee, a Los Angeles attorney for Presley Enterprises.
Christopher M. Franceschelli, president of Dutton Children's Books, New York, says the company applies the same rights-protection standards to the Web that it uses in the print world. Dutton is also concerned about how characters like Pooh are depicted. Mr. Franceschelli says Dutton staffers have found Web pages showing A.A. Milne characters taking part in murder and suicide rituals.
In the past, most on-line copyright suits have targeted for-profit enterprises that were peddling software programs or pornographic photos. But the law is murky when neither money nor sex is involved.
Last year a federal prosecutor in Boston brought criminal fraud charges against a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who ran a bulletin board for users to copy and exchange copyrighted software. Because the student wasn't making money, his actions weren't criminal violations of copyright law, ruled U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns, who threw out the case in December 1994.
Copyright lawyers say that cases involving nonprofit entities are likely to be decided on such grounds as what portion of a work is copied, whether the use cuts into a copyright holder's sales and whether the copying should be protected as a "fair use" purpose such as parody, criticism, comment, or review. "You don't have the God-given right to put everything you feel like up on the Internet," says Bruce Sunstein, a Boston intellectual-property lawyer. "But there's still a lot of freedom in what you can do."
Worries about alienating their fans complicate matters for some entertainment companies that want to retain their copyrights. Sony Music Entertainment Inc. has sent notices to creators of Web pages honoring Pearl Jam, one of its bands. But the company says it may allow sites to use its images free by license, as long as they agree that they won't alter images.
Besides unleashing lawyers, publishers are pushing Congress to pass copyright-law changes proposed by a Clinton administration working group. The group backed defining digital transmission as a form of publication and supported electronic coding of all copyrighted material that will notify publishers when their material is copied. It also favored criminal penalties for making copies with a retail value of $5,000 or more, which would probably include nonprofit postings on the Internet.
The proposals worry civil libertarians and computer professionals. The Association for Computing Machinery, a trade group, says the rules are written so narrowly they could impede scientists from using the Internet to browse through research materials.
Pamela Samuelson, a visiting professor at Cornell Law School, argues that they would virtually eliminate the "fair use" provisions of current copyright law. In the view of publishers, Prof. Samuelson complains, "there is no piece of copyrighted work small enough that they are uninterested in charging for its use, and no use private enough that they aren't willing to track it down and charge for it."
Publishers say the changes are needed because works in digital format are so easily copied that the potential for lost revenue is high. They also worry that it is difficult for users to judge the authenticity of material which, in digital form, can be easily reproduced and altered.
For the last year the publishers of a work by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein have sought to stamp out a flawed translation that was originally posted on the Internet by professors at Oxford University. The professors removed the text as soon as they were asked, says Stewart Cauley, who was until recently the editor for electronic publishing at Routledge, a New York division of Thomson International. But Mr. Cauley says the same flawed text pops up every few months, reposted on other Web sits by scholars who aren't aware of its origin.
"We are most concerned with the flaws in the translation," he says. "Then, once we started thinking about it, we also decided it might cut into sales."