Fwd: Re: significance of name-bearing types

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Fri Oct 4 09:28:19 CDT 2002

Bill Shear wrote:

>I think Barry is referring to the notorious British Museum (Natural
>I wonder if this policy has ever been legally tested?  In other words, has
>anyone published a photo of a BMNH specimen without permission and been sued
>by them?  Or would they have to sue--they could just cut you off from access
>to the collections.
>One wonders what they hope to gain by such a rule.  Do they expect the
>scientists who come in and order their collections for them to pay a fee to
>publish pictures of the specimens whose value they enhanced by working on
>What about drawings, which are still images of the specimens? I'm definitely
>in violation in this case.  And is the rule retroactive?  Do they plan to
>collect from people who published such images before the rule was in place?
>Rhetorial questions, obviously.

I'm surprised you aren't aware of how and why those regulations came
about, since it fits exactly into what you were saying earlier about
the "regulation ratchet".

Basically, the BMNH had heaps of tourists coming in every year,
taking pictures of every conceivable object, artifact, and specimen
on public display - and some of these people weren't tourists: they
were taking pictures and selling them without the BMNH's permission
(e.g., photos of the BMNH dinosaur skeletons appearing in books, for
which the BMNH was not paid or asked for approval).

The policy was written to prevent that sort of abuse, but they wrote
it as a *blanket* policy, covering everything from the dinosaur
skeletons on public display to the insect specimens that were not. It
probably never occurred to the museum's administrators that such a
reasonable-sounding policy could have any negative repercussions.
Like most anti-scientific regulations, the policy was intended to
solve a problem in one context, without adequate thought as to what
*legitimate* enterprises it would interfere with in other contexts.
NO ONE seems to draft public policy with scientists in mind. Not
surprising, perhaps, given that even if people do remember that we
exist, a common perception is that we're godless, amoral freaks, or,
at best, a bunch of socially-maladjusted geeks - so why would anyone
worry about our needs? Sometimes one suspects that if scientists
could miraculously cure diseases and heal injuries with a touch, that
we'd all be thrown in jail for practicing medicine without a license.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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