Copyright Law

Barry Roth barryr at UCMP1.BERKELEY.EDU
Sat Nov 2 09:39:33 CST 1996

Robert Poole <eis at IX.NETCOM.COM> writes:
>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 diagnoses of taxa usually consist of a string (i.e., a list) of terse
epithets or clauses -- descriptive language in its most dense and efficient
form.  The epithets are usually terms that have a widely agreed-on, specific
meaning in the discipline.  Changing any of the words alters the meaning.
Even the order of the descriptive elements has a logic and significance.

So, how radically would someone have to alter a taxon diagnosis to avoid
copyright infringement yet retain the information content?  (I'm more than
just passively interested in this.  Some time ago I produced a work for hire
that included taxon diagnoses; now I want to work them [or modifications of
them, as little changed as possible] into an academic publication.)

Barry Roth

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