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Thread: Copyrights

  1. #1

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    Copyrights

    This is both a general question and a specific question, or should I say questions?

    There are a lot of downloadable plans out there. I'm talking about old designs, not new ones. How would I figure out if a given design is copyrighted?

    More specifically, there are some plans out there for Jodel D-11. These are obviously images (possibly scans, or maybe photos) of very old plans in the original French. I believe (though I'm not sure) that some are downloadable for free, and they are also available as part of collections of old aircraft plans that some people sell for a nominal charge at places like ebay (maybe $10 or so). I think there are also places that sell individual set of plans for under $100.

    The question arises whether these Jodel D-11 plans are under copyright. I'm not talking about re-drawn plans and the like, but rather images of original plans. Were the plans copyrighted originally? Has the copyright expired? I know there were changes in the copyright laws some years ago, and the whole topic of copyrights is complicated, what with the various dates, changes in laws, and domestic (US) vs. foreign content creators, registered vs. unregistered copyrights, works with copyright claims on the work vs. those without, works created 1978 vs. those created afterward, old (pre-1978) copyrights that may have been renewed or not renewed, and so forth, and it's all very confusing.

    Obviously, if you want to discuss philosophical points regarding creator rights feel free to do so, but I'm more interested in the specific question of what is legal and what is not.

    I realize that there are re-drawn plans converted to English, and there are also plans at places like Sandalwood and Avions Jodel. I'm not so interested in discussing those because I assume they are modern incarnations of the plans rather than originals, though I could be wrong.

    I did find a document from the US Copyright Office that discusses duration of copyrights. It is nominally written in plain English, but even that is confusing. However, as I read the document it seems to me that the original D-11 plans are probably not currently under copyright unless the original copyright (if it ever actually existed) was renewed. Here a link to the document. https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf.

    Returning to the original general question, this issue probably applies to other old plans as well, not just Jodel.

  2. #2
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    It's a thorny issue.

    First keep in mind that EVERYTHING someone writes is, technically, copyrighted. Copyright laws exist to support the generators of content, and they don't have to add a formal copyright notice nor file anything with the government.

    What does come into play, legally, is the ability to win damages for someone violating their copyright. To be able to defend a copyright, the author needs to apply a notice that the work *is* copyrighted. If the author files a copyright with the government, it gives the opportunity to win hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

    Copyright "used" to last 75 years after the death of the author. This changed when Disney was in danger of having Mickey Mouse and other of their cartoon characters enter the public domain. Nowadays, I have no idea what the standard is.

    One of the biggest thing with copyrighted material is "fair use." It basically is a legal concept that allows others to use copyrighted materials as long as the author's interests are not affected.

    You can do a search for "fair use" and find a lot of description of it. It depends on how much of the work is copied, and what is the purpose of the copying. Educational institutions get some slack, and if you're just copying one or two pages from a ~300-page work, that's not an issue.

    For aircraft plans, the first thing to do is to check to see if there's a copyright notice. If there is, it's time to be cautious.. maybe the designer himself is dead, but his children might claim ownership of the rights. They may even not want the plans distributed due to liability issues.

    If there's NOT a copyright notice, remember that, technically, they ARE copyrighted. If the original designer (or his heirs) want to protect their rights, it's not fair for you to usurp their ability to control the work.

    Onesie-twosie copying, you won't get into trouble. Try to sell copies, though, and you could end up in trouble.

    Keep in mind there's a place in Russia that sells dozens, if not HUNDREDS of pirated copies of homebuilt aircraft plans. It's much harder for someone in the west to use Russian courts to stop these guys. They only sell digital copies, though, so you have to consider if you want to stick a hacker-generated CD-ROM or memory stick into your own computer...

    Best bet would be to contact type groups for the airplane you're interested in...someone there can probably give you an idea of whether they're protected or not.

    Ron Wanttaja

  3. #3
    Airmutt's Avatar
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    Just reading the US copyright laws makes my head hurt. In some ways the copyright laws get in the way of folks obtaining and using orphaned designs. And there are a lot of good designs that have or just kinda drifting into oblivion. Paul P’s designs would be a good example.
    Dave Shaw
    EAA 67180 Lifetime
    Learn to Build, Build to Fly, Fly for Fun

  4. #4

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    Something else to consider, is that some of those "free" or low cost plans sets are of very outdated versions. There are also plans out there that are outright pirated copies. The best bet is checking with the designer, if still alive and supporting them, or their designee, or a support group for the particular aircraft.

  5. #5
    FlyingRon's Avatar
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    The other Ron does a good job, ut one thing not mentioned. Building a plane based on the plans is MAKING a copy under the law (same goes for using architectural plans to build a house).

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    It's a thorny issue.

    First keep in mind that EVERYTHING someone writes is, technically, copyrighted. Copyright laws exist to support the generators of content, and they don't have to add a formal copyright notice nor file anything with the government.

    What does come into play, legally, is the ability to win damages for someone violating their copyright. To be able to defend a copyright, the author needs to apply a notice that the work *is* copyrighted. If the author files a copyright with the government, it gives the opportunity to win hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

    Copyright "used" to last 75 years after the death of the author. This changed when Disney was in danger of having Mickey Mouse and other of their cartoon characters enter the public domain. Nowadays, I have no idea what the standard is.

    One of the biggest thing with copyrighted material is "fair use." It basically is a legal concept that allows others to use copyrighted materials as long as the author's interests are not affected.

    You can do a search for "fair use" and find a lot of description of it. It depends on how much of the work is copied, and what is the purpose of the copying. Educational institutions get some slack, and if you're just copying one or two pages from a ~300-page work, that's not an issue.

    For aircraft plans, the first thing to do is to check to see if there's a copyright notice. If there is, it's time to be cautious.. maybe the designer himself is dead, but his children might claim ownership of the rights. They may even not want the plans distributed due to liability issues.

    If there's NOT a copyright notice, remember that, technically, they ARE copyrighted. If the original designer (or his heirs) want to protect their rights, it's not fair for you to usurp their ability to control the work.

    Onesie-twosie copying, you won't get into trouble. Try to sell copies, though, and you could end up in trouble.

    Keep in mind there's a place in Russia that sells dozens, if not HUNDREDS of pirated copies of homebuilt aircraft plans. It's much harder for someone in the west to use Russian courts to stop these guys. They only sell digital copies, though, so you have to consider if you want to stick a hacker-generated CD-ROM or memory stick into your own computer...

    Best bet would be to contact type groups for the airplane you're interested in...someone there can probably give you an idea of whether they're protected or not.

    Ron Wanttaja

    I have seen a copy of Jodel D-11plans/drawings. They were dated 1 June 1951.


    Here's how I interpret that based on the explanatory document at the copyright office that I referenced earlier. A Creation date of 1951 would put the drawings under the1909 copyright law. This means that the creators originally had copyright protection for 28 years. During the final year they could renew the copyright. If not renewed during that time frame then the work would lose copyright protection forever. This means the copyright for the D-11 drawings would need to be renewed sometime between 1 June 1978 and 1 June 1979 or else the creators would lose copyright protection forever. There were some later changes to copyright law, but I don't think they changed the need to renew the copyright within 28 years of its creation for a work created in 1951.


    I went to the database that includes copyright renewals between 1978 and the present, https://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pw...cal&PAGE=First. I did a name search for Joly, the name of one of the creators of the Jodel D-11. There were no aircraft plans under that name. I then did a search for the other creator, a man named Delemontez. There were no entries of any sort under that name. I did a keyword search for Jodel. There was an entry for D9, but it was for a scale model of the Jodel D-9, and it was dated 1978, so it wasn't relevant. I tried a few more searches, but basically I could find nothing that looked like it was relevant to the Jodel D-11.


    I take this to mean that any copyright on the original D-11 plans was never renewed and therefore the drawings are no longer protected. I think similar considerations would apply to many variants which came out at about the same timeframe, such as the D-112.


    I could be wrong. I am not a lawyer or expert on copyright law, so take what I have written with a grain of salt, or maybe two grains.


    Comments in this thread that the original D-11 plans may be obsolete are well-taken, although thousands of aircraft have been built, and I believe the D-11 has a good reputation, so the plans probably weren't too bad.


    I actually bought an unused set of plans for the Jodel D-18 from a guy in the UK, so in a sense this whole discussion about the D-11 may be moot, but it is still something I would like to get straight in my mind. In any case, this discussion may be relevant to other old aircraft plans as well as Jodel.


    A final note: I believe that some of the unofficial copies of the D-11 drawings that are out there are missing one or more pages, so they are probably useless other than as study plans, even aside from the issue of whether they may be obsolete.

    A final note: (Yes, I know I already made one final note, but here's another one.) There are re-drawn Jodel plans available for various models. They were redrawn by a man in Australia named Frank Rogers and are available from Graham Clark in the UK. They were re-drawn and are labelled in English rather than French, and the measurements were converted from Metric to Imperial measurements.
    Last edited by massmanute; 01-31-2022 at 11:01 AM. Reason: corrections

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