Copyright again

Robert Poole eis at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sat Nov 2 13:07:46 CST 1996

A couple of recent messages in response to a note of mine about copyright
law have asked the question "How different is different enough?".  The
answer, unfortunately, is not an easy one.  I am an insect systematist and a
publisher, not a copyright lawyer and cannot give any meaningful advice on
this problem.  I have my own copyright lawyer who answers these questions
for me when I need to know.  My understanding, however, is that the question
has to do with originality.  In the famous (if often misunderstood)
telephone book case, the white pages were ruled by the Supreme court to not
be of sufficient originality to be copyright protected because the data was
supplied by others and the publisher merely arranged the names
alphabetically.  The yellow pages of the same book were ruled to be
protected by copyright, presumably because their content showed originality
of presentation.  So the answer is, of course, that each case is different.

If the case is "iffy", why not ask the holder of the copyright to use his or
her material.  For most scientific papers I would imagine their answer would
be yes.  Some may not be aware that most journals will allow you to copy or
reproduce papers in their journals for a nominal fee.  To find out more
about this see the web site for the Copyright Clearance Center.  I don't
have the URL ready to hand, but it should be easy to track down.  Unless
there is an economic reason not to, most scientists are happy to let you use
their publications provided they are properly credited and you have a good
reason for duplicating the material.

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