RE: Ethics of reusing vendor's help material -- copyright issue orcommonplace practice?

Subject: RE: Ethics of reusing vendor's help material -- copyright issue orcommonplace practice?
From: "Joe Malin" <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com>
To: "Tom Johnson" <lists -at- idratherbewriting -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2006 09:34:54 -0700

It is commonplace to reuse a vendor's help material.

You must get the vendor's permission. The material is under copyright
(unless the vendor explicitly waives those rights) and both complete and
modified reuse violate copyright.

You also want to maintain a good relationship with your vendor. It's
entirely possible that your company has already negotiated this
arrangement. The vendor may have agreed that you can reprint/reuse parts
of the documentation, or they may have insisted that you use the entire
documentation, as is. You must follow that agreement even if you dislike
it, or you must convince your management to modify the agreement.

Of course, it's also possible that nobody thought about this problem.
You certainly have an explicit license agreement for the software; it
may *not* include anything about the documentation! You must check.

I've encountered this before. My managers and legal advisers told us to
distribute the documentation anyway. They didn't want to try to
renegotiate the agreement, and they thought that the vendor wouldn't
make anything of it. In my case, it was the complete Javadoc for an API;
we had a formal, written agreement to distribute the class libraries,
but we did not have any agreement about the Javadoc.

This also points out that, as a technical writer, you should be aware of
OEM deals for software and hardware and point out these documentation

Joe Malin
Technical Writer
jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com
The views expressed in this document are those of the sender, and do not
necessarily reflect those of TuVox, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+jmalin=tuvox -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+jmalin=tuvox -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf
Of Tom Johnson
Sent: Monday, August 07, 2006 3:58 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Ethics of reusing vendor's help material -- copyright issue
orcommonplace practice?

Is it commonplace or questionable to reuse a vendor's help material
verbatim to customize a smaller guide more focused on our audience?

For example, our company recently purchased software that comes with a
page user guide. Our users will only need about 40 pages of this. I want
copy these 40 pages, change it a little to fit with our style guide, and

brand it without own documentation template. However, I plan to leave
wording and screenshots mostly as is.

If we've purchased this software, is it still a copyright issue? Even if
is it common practice in the tech comm. field to do this? Any
recommendations for me?




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