copyright on description

Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG
Thu Jun 2 10:39:39 CDT 2005

Here's my take on copyright in a scientific context.

Aside from any ethical questions, the main thing to think of is "will I get
taken to court?" or get fired, or similarly punished.

Law is based, so I understand, on what's reasonable. If it is reasonable
that you will not be taken to court (or get fired, or incur the detestation
of your peers) for copyright infringement, then it is probably okay. You can
be sued in court if (a) the original author loses money when you infringe
the copyright, and (b) a tame lawyer tries to prove his worth to a company
by making a fuss.

Generally, you (should) get a warning first like "Kindly take such and so
off your Web site," or "stop selling so and so." That's reasonable. You can
then decide on your response.

Given that you generally get a warning, and assuming that you are not
committing huge amounts of money during your possible infringement and can
probably undo something an author would complain about, you should be able
to plan to make use of another's work in what most people would consider a
fair and reasonable manner. On that preserves the original author's
intellectual investment and/or profit. Guidelines for extracting portions of
a work are published, doubtless, on the Web.

Not being able to use a species name is unreasonable, especially because it
was published to be used by others, and the intent of the original author
would be a factor in any court action. You have my permission to punish
whoever told you that.

Information cannot be copyrighted. Any special way the information is
presented can, unless you add so much more information and modify the manner
of presentation that it is essentially a new work: as value added.

(Note: I am not an attorney, and depending on anything I say above is
Richard H. Zander
Bryology Group, Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
richard.zander at <mailto:richard.zander at>
Voice: 314-577-5180;  Fax: 314-577-9595
Bryophyte Volumes of Flora of North America:
Res Botanica:
Shipping address for UPS, etc.:
Missouri Botanical Garden
4344 Shaw Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63110 USA

-----Original Message-----
[mailto:ricardo at ANS.COM.AU]
Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 4:24 AM
Subject: Re: [TAXACOM] copyright on description

Few days ago I have been told that even name of insect is intellectual
property and therefore cannot be used without author AND publisher


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Ken & Nette
  Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 12:42 AM
  Subject: Re: copyright on description

  Dear Richard,

  Copyrights are applied for, and if the item appears in a document that is
copyright protected, it probably is. However, how many ways can a person
scientifically describe a species. I would guess only one or two are
generally accepted and therefor difficult to enforce. As in other copyright
protections, the individual holding a copyright would be responsible for
enforcing it. So, the best way to be sure is to ask the author.

  IMHO, you are probably safe if it isn't narrative. If it is, simply ask.

  Regards, Ken Sayers

  On Jun 1, 2005, at 3:02 AM, Vr.R.E.M.J..-B. BEJSAK-COLLOREDO-MANSFELD

    Dear colleagues
    I like to know if copyright apply also on description on genera or
    I know that maybe I can republish description from journal older than 50
years ( like Scleropatrum Reitter 1890)
    Can I "republish" on my website for example description of genus
Bremerus published in 2004 in Mitt.Mus.Nat.kd.Berl.Zool?
    Keep care and be of good cheer


    (name) Vratislav Richard Eugene Maria John Baptist
    (surname) of Bejsak (Bayshark)-Colloredo-Mansfeld

  *** Ken Sayers & Nettie Kobak ***

  Alameda, CA 94501 37o 46' N, 122o 15' W

  at 2' elevation, but formerly from 6,000'

  saybak at

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