comments and further concern

WCS Gallon Jug galljug at BTL.NET
Wed Nov 6 06:19:44 CST 1996

Fellow Taxacomers:

Attached at end of this comment is a forwarded piece from the Fish &
Wildlife Information Exchange list. It may be relevant discussions which
have been ongoing as well. =20

I note that in developing a biodiversity/zoogeography synthesis database for
conservation and evaluation of biodiversity for Belize's protected areas I
run into various obstacles in the taxonomic community.  I have been working
on repatriating museum data.

Most curators and taxonomists have been very willing to have their
information included and it is all attributed to the curator or data
provider and of course all collectors are cited with specimens.  From time
to time I have run into the wary curator who is convinced beyond a shadow of
a doubt that someone (other than  themselves the museum) is getting filthy
rice by using the data and reluctant to release it.

Interesting in light of recent discussions on the decline of alpha
taxonomists and value of their work, etc. etc.  The lack of training and new
talent is not restricted to taxonomy however.  Very few real field
biologists coming out of schools these days.  Lots of computer jocks and
ecological modelers, but many would not know a real animal in the field if
it bit them on the posterior.  Seems the last vestiges of field people are
the taxonomists.  Thank God they are still out there.  The clich=E9 in the
realm of conservation biology from taxonomy and the biodiversity crisis is
almost a truism..." One can not know that a species has gone extinct until
we first know of its existence..." and all of the permutations ie. We can
not save... protected habitat until we know what taxa are under threat.  All
of this really boils down to Alpha taxonomy.  Is it really an endemic
needing protection or is it a widespread polymorphic species under no=

Those of us in the field must rely on the taxonomic community for most=

Below is a brief bit on database intellectual property rights.  Keeping in
mind that taxonomy is the basis for these databases in most cases is loosely
follows same thread of discussion of citations and affixing value to
taxonomist efforts.

To: Multiple recipients of list FWIM-L <FWIM-L at LISTSERV.VT.EDU>

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 96 08:53:45 EST
From: "Karen Wilson" <Karen_Wilson at>
To: biodiv-l at

Subject: Intellectual Property Rights - proposed changes

     At the recent biennial CODATA conference in Japan we were told about
     changes proposed for intellectual property rights in databases (see
     text below handed out at that meeting) that are alarming, especially
     given recent problems of funding for biological research.

     These changes have NOT been widely discussed in or with the scientific
     community, despite their immense relevance to us. We have come to take
     for granted 'public interest or fair use' exceptions for scientific=20
     and educational use of printed material (although I understand that=
     that might change), and we should certainly be involved in any
     discussion of their abolition in the electronic area.

     WIPO is meeting in December to discuss this matter. The Berne
     Convention does not cover all countries, of course, but it covers
     enough countries to make this a very serious matter. Whether you are a
     database user or producer, please talk to the relevant bodies in your
     own countries in the short time before then, and ensure that they are
     aware of the ramifications of what is being proposed.

     Karen Wilson

     *Handout text:

                         DATABASE PROPERTY RIGHTS

     A new legal regime being proposed in the World Intellectual Property
     Organization (WIPO) would establish a new intellectual property right
     in the contents of databases that would:

     ** Prohibit unauthorized extraction, use, or reuse of any database, or
     any substantial portion of a database (as defined by the database
     vendor), and effectively establish the basis for a pay-per-use system.

     ** Remove ALL data that are of commercial interest to ANY publisher
     from the public domain WITHOUT any public interest or fair use
     exceptions such as those traditionally used for scientific and
     educational purposes.

     ** Make PERPETUAL protection the norm for databases that are updated,
     as is typical for electronic databases, because a 25-year initial term
     of protection is renewable with EVERY new change or addition to a

     ** Include strong civil and criminal enforcement provision, INCLUDING
     third-party liability provisions (that is, it would extend to an
     unwitting intermediary or disseminator).

     ** Raise serious constraints on fundamental procedures in science and
     education, undermining the ability of researchers and educators to
     access and use scientific data.

     This issue will be considered by the WIPO as an amendment to the Berne
     Convention. If ratified, it will become the new international norm in
     intellectual property law. To date, there has been little or no
     discussion of this issue in scientific or academic communities. The
     WIPO conference on this subject will take place in Geneva, 2-20
     December 1996.

     For further information, contact:

     Ferris Webster
     Chair, ICSU CODATA Working Group on Data Access

     Tel:   1-302-645 4266
     Fax:   1-302-645 4007
     Email: ferris at

     26 September 1996

Bruce W. Miller
Associate Conservation Zoologist
Tropical Forest Planning Project
Wildlife Conservation Society
Gallon Jug, Belize
    galljug at

Bruce W. Miller
Associate Conservation Zoologist
Tropical Forest Planning Project
Wildlife Conservation Society
Gallon Jug, Belize
    galljug at

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