Copyright law

Robert Poole eis at IX.NETCOM.COM
Fri Nov 1 09:56:13 CST 1996

There seems to be some misinformation abroad about copyright law and its
relationship to systematic information.  Copyright law does not apply to
facts, only the presentation of those facts.  You may use the systematic
information in a publication, but you cannot copy the form of its
presentation.  To give an example near and dear to my heart, consider the
Nomina Insecta Nearctica series, a check list of the insects of North
America.  By copyright law anyone is free to use the information in these
publications (or its electronic form when it appears) for whatever they
wish.  However if someone were to copy the list and publish it or post it on
the web, in whole or in part, without the permission of the copyright
holder, this is violation of the copyright law.  There is no restriction in
law, however, on duplicating the list by an independent compilation of the
facts.  The only complication that could arise is if this new compilation is
identical, or nearly identical, in content and presentation to the original.
The purpose of copyright laws is to protect the work and intellectual effort
of the publisher or authors of a work.  It does not restrict, in any way,
access to the facts contained in that work.

Robert W. Poole
Entomological Information Services
eis at
P.O. Box 4350
Rockville, Maryland 20849-4350

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