Ownership of Copyrights in Forms
Does copying and using a third party’s forms constitute copyright infringement? It will if that third party owns copyrights in the form. This will help you determine if anyone owns copyrights and the chances of having to deal with a claim.:
(1) Most clauses in Internet Documents have been copied and recopied so many times that there is no way to determine who may be an owner. So if searching with Google or Bing it turns out that the same clause appears in many documents of unrelated companies, and not written by the same group of lawyers, it’s unlikely that anyone holds rights in those provisions. It would still be a good idea, as a precautionary measure, to change the wording of the clauses.
(2) Copyrights can also protect the order in which clauses appear, so It would be a good idea, if there are not many forms with the same order, to create your own.
(3) Is there any difference in risk if you copy a form written in plain English? Yes, because most plain English documents are drafted without much, if any, copying. If so, it is more likely that the owner of the website has and may assert copyrights in the form.
(4) Also, copying a form is much less likely to be the subject of a claim if there is no copyright notice on the form or the website or if the copyright has not been registered in the U.S. copyright office. — copyright.gov.. If you are relying on such lack of a notice or registration, you should have an attorney do the search to determine the truth about the situation.
(5) It is highly unlikely that your business is exactly the same as another. Blind copying of forms may therefore not fit your company’s manner of doing business and could be the basis for such claims as fraud, action by the Federal Trade Commission or action by other federal and state agencies. For example a clause in an agreement for a large company may list a number of security measures that are maintained by the large company but which are way too expensive, and not required for your small company to implement.
(6) if you are sufficiently successful you may want to convert your Legal Documents to plain English. That would, in most cases, require a rewrite by your own attorneys and/or staff, but would be viewed favorably by anyone who understands how the process works.