Question On Propriety
Mathew McGill

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Positive Atheism List" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Fw: Question On Propriety
Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 3:08 PM

I will send this letter to myself, because your instructions concerning your address are unclear. Then, I will post your letter and my response in our Letters section, since your question is important.

The critique of "The Mind Of The Bible Believer" is credited to "source unknown." This means that if someone owns it, we don't know who that is. If the owner can make the case that he or she owns it, we will credit it the same way we did with the "Top Ten Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than Jesus" which was credited to "source unknown" until the author contacted us and gave us permission to use it.

If the owner contacts us and asks us to remove a piece (as the owner of "How Can Atheists Have a Purpose to Their Lives?" by Douglas E. Krueger has done) we will gladly remove it (as we have done with this piece).

Originally, I erected this website to support the organization "United States Atheists" (formerly "Center For Rational Thought" and "Atheist Community Center"). At the time, I was encouraged by one of the leaders, a retired lawyer, to go ahead and post whatever I wanted. Some of the material on my website is of this nature, and I haven't had the time (or, in a few cases, the heart) to remove it voluntarily.

Much of this material is inconsequential (that is, the owner doesn't or wouldn't care if portions of his or her material is excerpted).

In any event, we are allowed, under U.S. copyright law, to post certain copyrighted material for educational or discussion purposes, so long as we are not turning a profit from our venture (that is, so long as we are not selling access to the website or are not posting advertisements on the website). We are also allowed to excerpt up to a certain length for review purposes.

The truth is, this website and magazine cost me upwards of $300 per month to maintain, and we receive about one-fifth of that expense in donations from readers. If they pushed me, I could easily abandon this entire project and move on to some other hobby -- and I would free up over $200 per month of my pension to pursue other hobbies.

One final thing: I have gone to great trouble to convert uncopyrighted material (such as "The Ten Commandments" by Joseph Lewis and "Rationalism In Europe" by Lecky) and the HTML conversion and typographical corrections (the editing) is copyrighted by me. If a publisher used these edited copies to publish a book and then sold these books for profit, I could easily prevail in any case against that publisher -- even if said publisher owned the right to the original work: it is the editing and the e-text conversion that I own; if they want to convert a book to e-text, then they must incur the expense of doing that work (and it's not cheap, by any means). Likewise, if a website grabbed these files and posted them, I would have every right to ask them to remove those files. And I have done just that to numerous web sites: I spend months' worth of man-hours tediously and laboriously preparing these manuscripts and converting them to HTML, and for that, I get, in return, the right to control this aspect of the work.

One important reason I have gone to all this trouble is to draw attention to our website. I'm not so altruistic as to dedicate hundreds of hours of labor so that others may exploit my work for their own gain: I do desire to make this stuff available, to be sure, but I want some of the fruits of my labor in the form of attention to the rest of my work. (The most important reward, for me, is the opportunity to test my ideas in the forum of our Letters section.) Jeffrey Jay Lowder of Internet Infidels once asked if they may post my copies of these classics outright, and I said no because the success of this project, at the time, meant increasing the chances of my having a social outlet in the form of the United States Atheists group's increased prospects for continued existence. Even though my association with USA has since ended, one of my primary social outlets is still this Web project itself. Should I decide to abandon Positive Atheism, Internet Infidels would probably receive an offer to post many of my conversions outright (despite the way at least one of their leaders has treated me in the past).

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.