[Taxacom] Towards a consensus higher classification of organisms (was: List of Orders of the world), misspellings, etc...

Jim Croft jim.croft at gmail.com
Fri Jun 13 21:32:26 CDT 2008

On Sat, Jun 14, 2008 at 11:50 AM,  <Tony.Rees at csiro.au> wrote:
> I am interested in Rod's and others' comments about copyright/IP issues
> with respect to lists of names, especially since species names from the
> Catalogue of Life form a large basis of my own list, and of course these
> names themselves originate from multiple providers, a significant
> fraction of whom are probably on this list. I have no wish to impinge on
> the rights of the original list creators

Careful Tony - in entering the mire of copyright in science, be
prepared to 'abandon hope'...

Note in particular there are differences in copyright legislation
depending on where you are on the globe.  For example, in the US it
appears to be generally accepted that it is not possible to copyright
a fact, but you do have rights over the presentation of those facts.
In Australia, by contrast, the courts have ruled that in at least two
cases that facts can be copyrighted (telephone numbers and TV
programs).  This made me break out in a cold sweat because the
taxonomic community makes its living out of documenting someone else's
facts - this was published there, then, etc.

Believing this to be an instance of the Law proving itself to be a
ass, we have not told everyone to stop working.  In our domain, 'fair
use' probably covers much of what we do, but it does reinforce the
need to document sources of individual information elements very

In documenting the higher level classifications of Australian plants,
we have no intention of asking anyone permission to use anything.  It
it was written somewhere, we will tell you where, when and by whom,
and we will describe how, even if they got it wrong.  We jokingly
refer to this as our 'name and shame' policy.  Of course we can not
take someone's existing classification and call it our own.

I would like to think that most classifications in biology are
provided as a public good, if not by specific Creative Commons, GPL or
similar license, then implicitly.  What use is a classification if
no-one is allowed to us it?   :)

Jim Croft
jim.croft at gmail.com

"I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in
order to enjoy ourselves."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher (1889-1951)

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