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Websites and Copyright

Anders MacGregor-Thunell

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I'd say too, Anders, that you need to see copyright in a Swedish context. Now, I know that there are rules and regulations which are applied internationally, but when you look at the trouble other countries have with getting them enforced, you can see that the national context is still very important.

One of the problems Anna Lindh had to deal with as Foreign Minister was the great statistics scandal at Karolinska (Sweden's foremost centre for medical research - and the body which awards the Nobel prize in medicine, for the uninitiated). A researcher at Karolinska published a paper in an international journal with a table in statistics which had been produced in the market leader in statistics programmes. A doctor in the USA read the article and mentioned to his brother over dinner what a nice programme his brother was responsible for producing and marketing! The brother idly checked whether Karolinska had bought any licences for the programme … and the Business Software Alliance promptly raided Karolinska.

There were red faces all round - not only had Karolinska pirated this programme - they'd pirated loads of others too. It should have been an open-and-shut court case, with Sweden's premier research establishment paying millions of dollars in fines … except that good old nationalism got in the way. It took a threat of trade sanctions against Sweden by the USA to even get Karolinska to cough up a modest amount of compensation and promise not to do it again. In the meantime, the Swedish authorities and courts had done everything they could to slow things down and basically to forget about the whole thing.

Now in the end, Karolinska did change its practices and start buying legal software only … but it took years, and, of course, no-one's head ended up on the block.

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… another little aside about Karolinska (who still appear to be a bit ICT-ly challenged!).

They recently formed a consortium and started an organisation called something like Karolinska University Systems, with e-mail addresses containing 'kus.se'. Only problem is that 'kus' is an obscene term in the other Scandinavian languages (part of the female anatomy), so the e-mail filters promptly deleted all the e-mail messages originating at Karolinska! It took quite a while before the major research establishments in Denmark, Norway and Finland managed to re-establish contact with their Swedish counterparts …

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Interesting story about obscene website names, David!

PowerGen Italy blundered with this name:


It appears to be dead, as you'll only find an "under construction" message here now.

Other obscene names that were spotted in time include:

The South Hampshire Institute of Technology

The City University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

(This was at a time of mergers and status changes several years ago.)

On a more serious note, David is right about the problems of enforcing copyright internationally. The two main messages that I would convey are:

1. Be courteous and ask people nicely for permission to make public their materials, explaining clearly how you intend them to be used.

2. Check out your national legislation carefully. Most of what I have posted is only relevant to the UK, which accepts only those bits of EU law that it happens to like!

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Andy and Graham - thank you for the explanation. I think I have a better clue now (but I'm still not really sure...). I don't remember the scandal at Karolinska David, but I now that there has been some copyright issues on software in Sweden. I'm not planning to give up on my pages, but I will go your way Graham and we shall see how long it will take... B)

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I'm not planning to give up on my pages

Anders, don't even THINK about giving up! It's not as hard as you expect. I maintain a very large website, as well as my business website. You'll find that people are more cooperative than you think. It does take a bit of time, but I sleep well at night. B)

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