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As I understand it a resume is automatically considered the intellectual property of its author, and the author has a right to determine how it will be copied ie. distributed. Does this actually hold any practical significance?

  • Does this mean that when someone sends you their resume, it is unlawful to pass it on to others unless the author gives permission?
  • Can you get sued if the resume finds its way to someone the author did not intend to see it, and the author suffers some harm as a result?
  • Is distributing a resume in the context of professional networking considered as implicit consent to allow sharing with anyone under the US legal system?
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  • I wouldn't be that certain that a resume is a work protected by copyright as common forms of resume don't really contain any free expression like e.g. a cover letter would. Facts may not be copyrighted, "useful articles" may not be copyrighted, ideas may not be copyrighted but only particular, specific expressions of them. The artistic expression/layout of a resume may be protected as a pictorial work, but distributing all the information in that resume (for example, copying the factual content into a plaintext email) would likely not be a violation as no copyrightable material was copied.
    – Peteris
    May 5 '20 at 15:50
  • @Peteris I can see how that could be the case for a list of skills, but a description of a project is clearly an expression. So are other personal statements (e.g. anything under the heading of "desired job objectives").
    – grovkin
    May 5 '20 at 22:58
  • @grovkin yeah, so that would greatly depend on the style of resume. As you say, description of projects you worked on would be copyrightable but a resume that lists the companies, job positions and dates plus your degrees and graduation dates would not. Also, it's probably a cultural issue of what's expected in a resume in different countries - for example, I would never include a heading "desired job objectives" or any other personal statements there, that information would be in the cover letter next to the resume/CV but not in it; but as far as I understand in other places it's different.
    – Peteris
    May 5 '20 at 23:34
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    @Peteris it's not just a difference of countries. Tech resume styles are almost diametrically opposite in the US depending on whether the resume is for the East coast or the West coast.
    – grovkin
    May 6 '20 at 2:53
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You need permission to copy unless fair use applies

Does this mean that when someone sends you their resume, it is unlawful to pass it on to others unless the author gives permission?

First note that copyright law only applies to copying. If someone were to give you a physical copy of their resume (assuming such a thing would happen in this day and age) then giving this to someone else without copying it is not copyright violation. There may be privacy issues involved but that’s another issue.

Further, in the United States, there is a fair use doctrine which allows limited copying without permission in certain circumstances. This is likely to apply in a lot of situations around copying resumes.

Finally, permission does not have to be explicit. For example, if you receive a resume in the course of a job application then permission to make copies for that purpose can be assumed to have been implicitly given.

Can you get sued if the resume finds its way to someone the author did not intend to see it, and the author suffers some harm as a result?

Under privacy law, possibly. Under copyright law, no.

What you can be sued for is making a copy. It doesn’t matter where this ends up.

Is distributing a resume in the context of professional networking considered as implicit consent to allow sharing with anyone under the US legal system?

No. It’s explicit consent because those networking sites have Terms and Conditions that explicitly deal with copyright. For example, if you post your resume on LinkedIn, you agree to this.

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  • This seems to be a trend on this site, but fair use is not the only exception to restrictions on copying.In fact, fair use only has to be considered when there are restrictions on copying.While the copyright is automatically granted to a creator, it does not in itself mean that distribution is automatically forbidden. If it did, prohibiting notices would not be necessary. If you think this is incorrect, please, provide a reference showing that an act of distribution by an author, without any stipulations attached, defaults to prohibition on distribution rather than to most permissive license.
    – grovkin
    May 5 '20 at 2:12
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    @grovkin you’ve got that backwards - without permission all works are distributed “all rights reserved”
    – Dale M
    May 5 '20 at 4:56
  • again, that claim goes against the fact that "all rights reserved" is actually often stated. This doesn't mean that the claim is false. But I would again ask for a reference. Especially since this claim seems to go against other information commonly understood about copyrights and the claim directly contradicts the often-reported reasons for the existence of DMCA
    – grovkin
    May 5 '20 at 8:58
  • @grovkin the basics of copyright is the default rights in acts like (depending on the jurisdiction, of course) law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/106 - the owner of the copyright has an exclusive right to make copies, everyone else needs to either match one of the (few) exhaustively enumerated exceptions to that exclusive right, or permission from the owner.
    – Peteris
    May 5 '20 at 15:57
  • @Peteris actually the US fair use concept is not “enumerated” - it’s open. Fair dealing in other jurisdictions is enumerated. There’s a question about that on this site somewhere
    – Dale M
    May 5 '20 at 20:44

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