The Exclusive Right to Expound About Exclusive Rights.

Memo to Associate:  Draft warning to readers that what client publishes is copyrighted.  Sounds simple, but take a moment to review the copyright caveats widely used, and those provoke questions about how far one can go.

My personal fave is the footer for AP news stories, since, it is doubtful that news or public events are copyrightable.  Still, the AP stories end with:
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The parts about “redistributed” are well-rooted in the Copyright Act, but a copyrighted news report cannot be “rewritten.”?  What limits then should be stated for modification of copyrighted material.  Here’s the notice from CBS. 
Modification of the Materials, or use of the Materials  …is a violation of CBS’s or such other sources’ copyright, trademark and other proprietary rights.

That notice, similar to a quitclaim deed or ‘as is’ representation, does not say that rewriting a CBS news report is a copyright violation, but comes closer to saying that if CBS has any “such” rights, then those may be violated.

Another variation of the notice, still in a broad-form, provides that the story “shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication, or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.”  Taken at face value, then a news report, published or broadcast, is the exclusive property of the publisher or broadcaster, and that no one can rewrite it.  The scope of that is expanded even more with the closer, “directly or indirectly in any medium.”  If a hurricane hits, then a copyrighted report about it cannot be “rewritten” for broadcast, and it cannot be published “indirectly.”  It’s hard to know how one might break those rules, knowingly.

Here are some other favorites attempts at putting the world on notice of copyright rights (even if those rights go beyond what the law will enforce).

The contents of this site, including text, images, audio and video files, computer software, and all of the other cool stuff on this little Web site may not be published, broadcast or otherwise redistributed without permission.  You may not reproduce, modify, distribute or republish materials contained on this site (either directly or by linking) without our prior written permission.
Users of this service may not reproduce, republish or redistribute material on the Web site in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder, who cannot grant permission to reuse or republish material from other information providers.
No material (including but not limited to the text, images, audio and/or video) and no software (including but not limited to any images or files incorporated in or generated by the software or data accompanying such software) (individually and collectively the “Materials”) may be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any way or decompiled, reverse engineered or disassembled, except that you may download one copy …, provided you keep intact all copyright and other proprietary notices.
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.

Omigosh, I think I just rewrote and republished text authored by others.