California  |  Intellectual Property

Legal Question

Asked on: 7/21/13, 4:51 am

Does nonprofit distribuion, as in a online collection, of a product owner's manual, in its entirety and in original form, infringe on copyright protection or would it be covered as fair use?

The owners manual entail the operation, but not the inner workings, of the product. The owners manual is dributed with the product, but the product owner does charge money for optional, extended support services, including replacement of lost manuals. When the product is purchased, the invoice does not itemize the manual as a purchased item or in any other way. One year of the aforementioned product support is itemized, as 'free of charge', in the invoice. The manual is not a substitute for the product, nor is it usable without the product. Another words, access to the manual does not obviate the need for the product itself. To demonstrate usage of the product, the manual includes examples, but these are very simple examples and common knowledge. The manual does not cite any other copyright materials. And finally, the online collection, through which the manual is distributed in its entirety and original form, is non-profit, free-of-charge, public service. The site does require registration but without restrictions.

With regard to copyright law, first, is the aforementioned manual eligible for protection as a creative work or would it considered a procedure and thus ineligible? Second, if eligible for copyright protection and 'fair use' does not apply here, why not?

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