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A compound of copy +‎ fraud. Coined in an August 2005 article, Copyfraud [1] by Jason Mazzone, an Associate Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.


copyfraud (uncountable)

  1. (law) False claims of copyright, such as a claim of copyright ownership of public domain material.
    • 2006, Mark Jordan, Putting Content Online: A Practical Guide for Libraries[2], ISBN 9781843341765, page 47, 48:
      Copyfraud is falsely claiming copyright ownership of works in the public domain. [] Mazzone's article describes copyfraud within the context of US copyright law, but he points out that: ‘As a result of the Berne Convention, there are some basic similarities throughout much of the world.[’]
    • 2017 January 25, Rod Pemberton, “Re: modernization of FORTH, Age Results”, in comp.lang.forth, Usenet[3]:
      The GPL and GPL FAQ don't say that applying a copyright and license (GPL) to Public Domain works after a trivial modification is copyfraud either, but it is.
    • 2008, Eva Hemmungs Wirtén, “‘I am Two Mowglis’: Kipling, Disney, and a Lesson in How to Use (and Abuse) the Public Domain”, in Terms of Use: Negotiating the Jungle of the Intellectual Commons[4], ISBN 9780802093783, page 105:
      Made possible because people trust in the veracity of something that at times is nothing more than a chimera, copyfraud is a particularly acute problem when exacerbated by public institutions like museums.

Usage notes[edit]

  • False claims do not need to be fraudulent or made in bad faith to qualify as copyfraud.