Museum collections / intellectual property

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Thu Feb 14 14:01:26 CST 2002

For an example of museum policy, go to and click on the copyright
notice on the lower right hand corner of the screen.

I have questioned SI people about this copyright notice, etc., as much
(70-80%) of the work done at the Smithsonian is done by FEDERAL employees.
And as such, that work is in the public domain.

The official response is look closely at the following line:

SI specifically retains any rights, including possible copyright, which it
may have in data, files, and/or the images they contain.

Notice the "it may have ..." clause.  The Smithsonian doesn't distinguish
what can be copyrighted or not, but leaves it up to the USER to figure what
material is really covered under the assumption if they don't know, then
they should assume that the SI has the rights, etc.

Others do this too, which in times of evering changing IP laws is not
unreasonable, even if an unethical,  approach.  Databases are one area where
there are changes in the works, etc.

Sorry, I know that doesn't really answer the question, but ...

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D. C. 20560-0169
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at [NB: no terminal "n"]
visit our Diptera site at

More information about the Taxacom mailing list