Hitler at Home on the Internet

The NYTimes reports that a 1938 article from Homes & Gardens which describes Hitler's home in the Bavarian Alps is now being replicated on the Internet. The article was originally scanned in by Simon Waldman, a director of digital publishing, for his personal website. The editor of Homes & Gardens asked him to remove it - he did, but not before others had downloaded it to be shared.

The episode is an object lesson in the topsy-turvy world of copyright and "fair use" — an area made far murkier by the distributive power of the Internet and the subsequent crisscrossing of international legal codes. In the United States, the posting would most likely be considered fair use, said Wendy Seltzer, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. "Reprinting the article now, 65 years after its original publication, strikes me as more like reporting or commenting on a news story, or fair use, than photocopying a current scientific article to save the cost of buying more magazines," she said.

Britain's Copyright, Design and Patents Act of 1988 considers use of "reasonable portions" of some copyrighted material to be "fair dealing," provided they are used in private study, criticism and review, or news reporting. Simply posting an article on the Web might not qualify.

Indeed, the Internet has ensured that copyright can never be just about one nation's laws. "All copyright issues are international copyright issues," said Edwin Komen, an intellectual property lawyer in Washington. On the Web, he added, "you become vulnerable to just about any jurisdiction in the world."