copyright on description
Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG
Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG
Fri Jun 3 11:12:20 CDT 2005
On additional thought on copyright. Although the Berne Convention says the
author has rights to a work even without registering the copyright, and more
rights if you do register, anyone who works for an institution should
realize that if you work for hire, your works may be owned by your employer.
Copyrighting something, or assigning copyright to a journal, or putting the
copyright symbol on your work means little if your employer actually owns
There are tests for whether your work is a "work for hire" largely derived
from tax law. Given that universities have invested in you as a
"personality," it is to their benefit to have your name on a scientific
publication, even if they own it.
I think time, however, is a test of whether a copyright can be challenged.
If the actual owner does not complain even though a work is published and
they know about it, then a court will throw out, I think, a tardy challenge.
So once your publications have been accepted by your institution as standard
practice, even though the institution probably owns the work, and you had no
right assigning the copyright to the journal yourself, it could not
successfully complain about copyright infringement.
I think the whole process of scientific publication rests on just this
particular tolerance by the actual owners of our work, assuming our
contracts can be interpreted as producing publications for hire. We, or the
journal, eventually own the copyright because the institutions don't and
won't complain in a timely manner.
One thing that may matter in the future is the fate of our Web-based
publications. Can your institution take your name off something you have
written after you are gone? It has happened to me with minor things that
don't matter much. But it could happen to you, with your major contributions
that suddenly become multi-author or anonymous in attribution without your
consent. Have you recourse? What if you are dead?
Richard H. Zander
Bryology Group, Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
richard.zander at mobot.org <mailto:richard.zander at mobot.org>
Voice: 314-577-5180; Fax: 314-577-9595
Bryophyte Volumes of Flora of North America:
Shipping address for UPS, etc.:
Missouri Botanical Garden
4344 Shaw Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63110 USA
From: <Arthur Chapman> <with opt1 DIGEST> [mailto:taxacom1 at ACHAPMAN.ORG]
Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 5:18 PM
To: TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU
Subject: Re: [TAXACOM] copyright on description
If you continue to have any doubts after you have read Richard's comments,
then the simplest thing to do is to contact the author and seek permission -
explaining whjat you want to do.
Arthur D. Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services
>From Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG on 2 Jun 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
> 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
> of your peers) for copyright infringement, then it is probably okay. You
> be sued in court if (a) the original author loses money when you
> the copyright, and (b) a tame lawyer tries to prove his worth to a
> by making a fuss.
> Generally, you (should) get a warning first like "Kindly take such and
> off your Web site," or "stop selling so and so." That's reasonable. You
> 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
> probably undo something an author would complain about, you should be
> to plan to make use of another's work in what most people would consider
> 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
> was published to be used by others, and the intent of the original
> 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
> 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 mobot.org <mailto:richard.zander at mobot.org>
> 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-----
> From: Vr.R.E.M.J..-B. BEJSAK-COLLOREDO-MANSFELD
> [mailto:ricardo at ANS.COM.AU]
> Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 4:24 AM
> To: TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU
> 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
> To: Vr.R.E.M.J..-B. BEJSAK-COLLOREDO-MANSFELD
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
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