Dragonfly, orphan plans?
Designed and first flown in 1980, the two-place, foam and fiberglass Dragonfly plans were owned and sold by Viking Aircraft. I bought a set in 1996 but had no time to build. Later, Viking was sold to Dart Industries of South Africa. They had started a project but a severe accident ended that effort. There was a report of sale to an unknown buyer in Italy but no one has 'stood up', yet and this is several years ago. Meanwhile, life moves on.
I fell into a sweet deal and bought a low hours, hangared Dragonfly. Now my plans are a roadmap to my rebuilding project as well as the plans and construction material of N19WT. Needing a secure backup, I've digitized the plans and am working on converting the images into text and traced, vectors, of a drawing package. This is how we save legacy documents in a digital age. But this begs a number of copyright questions:
- How long of a period does a copyright exist?
- If the copyright 'owner' disappears, who can enforces or defends a copyright?
- Subsequent publications such as newsletters start a separate copyright clock, right?
- Does "free" constitute "fair use?"
After 33 years of flight experience, we've learned a few things about this airplane (some would say relearned) the problems of this design. Since I'm not building a Kevorkian, I'm working on some original changes; a better engine (where have we heard that before!); possibly tri-cycle landing gear, and; modern instruments. But to do these right, I'm following engineering practices to minimize risks. Along the way, I had to digitize the plans to get accurate metrics to do the engineering. But I am not alone.
Burt Rutan is retired and his plans have built a lot of airplanes. But other designs predate Burt's work, Jim Bede's projects come to mind. Time and age, we pass on but what happens to the orphan plans?
Are copies kept in the Library of Congress?
Since no one has spoken up, I will offer some observations.
Copyrights, like patents, in the US must be defended by the copyright holder. The government does not chase folks who "borrow" and/or misuse the material or data. Copyrights are what is called "intellectual property". Intellectual property is a specialty branch of the law. An example protecting a copyright is how the music industry has sued folks for downloading songs. The government provides the courts to hear the arguments, but it is up to the copyright holder to pay lawyers to seek damages.
Now to have a valid copyright, you MUST mark your material with the copyright symbol. That is part of protecting your interest. If you fail to do that, you are legally giving up some of your "standing" (I think that is the right word) to protect your intellectual property.
So the first question is whether the drawings in question are marked as copyrighted.
If the drawings are marked as copyrighted, the next question has to do with the risk of using copyrighted material. Unlike music, the intellectual property that is the design of a homebuilt airplane can have little commercial value. This is kind of unfortunate, but this means that the owner is very unlikely to be willing to spend the serious $$ on lawyers to contest copying done without permission. So the risk to the copier can be very low. The risk increases if somehow the individual doing the copying finds a way to make a lot of $$ doing it, but since we are talking about aviation here, that sounds unlikely.
Library of Congress - I think that you have to send stuff to the Library of Congress. I may be wrong but I do not believe that they run around looking for material to archive. For instance, I work in high tech and regularly put copyright notices in software source code. I would be stunned to find any of that in the Library of Congress. On the other hand I am sure that book publishers send material in as a matter of course. Homebuilt airplane drawings? Probably not.
So if I had a copy of the plans, and I thought that there was a demand, I would distribute copies of the original drawings at cost or just a small mark up. Then, if I thought that my improvements have real value and I wanted to be rewarded, I would sell my drawing package of the improvements for appropriate $$ based on what my market was.
That folks hate getting wrapped up with legal issues is shown by Curtis Pitts' not having the lawyers shut down the Spar Craft wing kits. Curtis Pitts patented the use of two different airfoils in a biplane configuration. The Spar Craft folks demonstrably infringed on the patent. Pitts spent his energy on making his airplanes the aerobatic performance benchmark of the time and let the Spar Craft folks fade away. Its more rewarding to make a better product than to pay lawyers. How many people remember the names of the guys who packaged the Spar Craft wing plans and kits?
So if you are not putting your children's future college education on the table by picking up the mantle of Dragonfly evangelist, I will suggest that the status of the plans is a small issue. But your mileage may vary as they say. Hope the above discussion has been helpful.
Best of luck,
I'm not interested in selling the plans as much as having a ready, machine readable, backup. But 'ready' means being able to read them from any browser. I'm not trying to give it away.
I noticed there are no copyright text on the plans but I never thought of that is being the sole requirement.
There are several areas of the plans I am changing in N19WT and some of them are interfaces to parts described in the drawings. So I've made digitizing those part for the next phase my detailed design. As fun as it would be to have a fully CAD version, I'm only interested in the interfaces:
1) engine and firewall
2) landing gear (still looking at options)
3) cockpit (much simpler when done)
There is nothing wrong with the wing, canard, or fuselage that I see any need for CAD.
After I bought the Anderson Kingfisher master drawings from Earl Anderson, I looked into copyrighting them One thing that must be done is furnish a copy to the library of Congress. I figured it wasn't worth giving away a set of plans to the L of C just to say they were copyrighted, so I just put copyright & the date on the plans and let it go.
You send in a copy of the work with the copyright notice...to the copyright office, not the Library of Congress. If you didn't, how would you ever prove that "Joe's" plans were copies of yours? You need an official copy on file with the Government in order to do that. I wouldn't be surprised if the Copyright office gives the submission to the L of C, but you don't have to submit to both.
Originally Posted by Richard Warner
You actually have legal copyright on any work you create WITHOUT having to register it with the government. However, if you want to sue someone for copyright violation, you do need to have it officially registered.
As for the rest, copyrights currently last the life of the originator plus 70 years. However, there has been a lot of fiddling with copyright law lately (since a certain cartoon mouse was old enough to be in danger of losing its copyright status).
As for "Does 'free' constitute "fair use?", the answer is "no." You can easily find definitions of "Fair Use" online (see Wikipedia), but basically, it depends on the amount of the work used (e.g., quoting a sentence is fair use, re-printing the entire set of plans isn't), the purpose of the use (educational vs. commercial) and, probably most important, whether the use hurts the market for the original work.
Copying a work you purchased IS allowed, if you're just going to use it yourself. If you've got a CD, you can legally rip MP3s for your Ipod as long as you don't sell or otherwise distribute them. You can generate CAD files of plans you own, but giving them to other folks might constitute a copyright violation.
Last edited by rwanttaja; 02-15-2013 at 12:15 AM.