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Three definitions here. Which is most useful? Perhaps we can give each of these different pattern names?

Definition one is perhaps better called a CopyrightTarPit or something?

Definition two is related to DefensiveCopyright. Perhaps call it HoldWithCopyright?. The theme is that you’re using copyright to keep something in one place

Definition three is not useful, I think. Saying “X is a CopyrightTrap(3)” is just saying “I don’t like X’s copyright policy”


A CopyrightTrap exists wherever the author of some content is happy for you to copy some content to some place, but for copyright reasons you may not do so without incurring significant costs in terms of time, money or legal risk.


This is a relative term - the importance of legal risks varies between those who AvoidLegalRisk and those who defend against CopyrightParanoia?. The time and money costs are significant in terms of fluidity: if you can copy the content but it takes you a few hours or days to get permission, there’s a copyright tar pit. That content will probably not act like MobileContent.

Definition Two

A CopyrightTrap is a website (or any repository of text) which uses copyright to prevent the text from being easily copied by third parties. Text in the repository will not act like MobileContent, but rather will tend to stay put where it is.

You might define a CopyrightTrap as something which uses CopyRight? to prevent the content within it from being MobileContent.

A CopyrightTrap may be absolute, like a bear trap, or relative, like a tar pit. In the first case it prevents content from being copied at all (without payment of a substantial fee), in the second case the CopyrightTrap imposes transaction costs which discourage and slow the copying of content.

CopyrightTrap is the usual situation today. Almost all textual repositories today (2003) are CopyrightTraps. It is a matter of debate whether a CopyrightTrap is good or bad. If you hear the term at all, though, you are probably in the presence of an OpenContent promoter (because who else even thinks about stuff like this?).

The opposite of a CopyrightTrap is a site with a policy of OpenContent. See also MobileContent.

I don’t use this word as an insult. If I wanted to make a value judgement I would say CopyrightTrapsAreBad (or, more likely, I’d put an argument to that effect on the page OpenContent).

Definition Three

Calling a site or a legal framework a copyright trap is a value judgement. The people claiming that X is a copyright trap feel that X is preventing the content from being as free as it ought to be (in their opinion).


How does the wiki start acting like a copyright trap? When author A writes some content B on wiki C, and some person D comes along and wants to take content B to some other site, then D may call C a copyright trap if getting permission takes time and energy. Some people may argue that this is exactly the kind of thing copyright was designed for. In this particular case D obviously believes that copyright is not being used as it should be used. See CopyrightJustification.

However, just because you want to do it, doesn’t make it right. Copyrights are rights; they limit freedoms. It is wrong to violate the trust of the authors of wiki C. If you do this, and the wiki does not respond, you will seriously damage the wiki’s reputation as a trustable space for discussion. Even if they do respond, the wiki C’s space and community will be destroyed by the battle.

Equally, just because something is illegal, doesn’t make it wrong.

Therefore, don’t begin discussions by characterizing wiki C as a copyright trap. Be charitable. Work towards reasonable, pragmatic solutions that take into account other people’s feelings. Use FairProcess?. Don’t make value judgments, but instead make value propositions. Don’t make yourself an enemy by being a jackass. You cannot win in war, but everyone can win in collaboration.

See also: PirateMusic

I think of a CopyrightTrap as simply some repository of text from which text cannot be moved because of copyright. Surely it is not feasible to determine who all the authors were for many pages on MeatballWiki?. Hence, those pages are stuck in a CopyrightTrap. – BayleShanks

This is why a StandardOfWikiEngines?, if made, should have InfiniteVersioning as a requirement to meet the StandardOfWikiEngines?.


Define external redirect: FairProcess StandardOfWikiEngines HoldWithCopyright VersionHistory CopyRight CopyrightParanoia MeatballWiki FairUse