[Taxacom] BHL and print on demand publishers: interpretation of law

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon Apr 2 21:00:43 CDT 2012

>Who won? Who lost? Which ideals have been advanced? Which ideals have been hindered?<
as always in real life, it is not that simple. A "win" at one level can be a "loss" at a higher level. A triumph of justice in one instance can be manipulated by others to attack justice in another instance. "Wins" and "losses" need to be looked at in overall context. If the price we must pay for freedom and justice is that we don't get some publications for free, then so be it. Publishers who "spit the dummy" at others profiting from stuff they are giving away free are likely to be control freaks in other ways too. The world is full of fine lines and slippery slopes ...

From: Curtis Clark <lists at curtisclark.org>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
Sent: Tuesday, 3 April 2012 1:40 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] BHL and print on demand publishers: interpretation of law

Let's try a different analogy. Let's say there is a publisher of 
scholarly works that copyrights the items they publish under United 
States law. Let's pretend that the US is a signatory of the Berne 
Convention, so that most other nations will honor US copyrights. Let us 
also pretend that they have made an agreement with another organization 
to provide their publications online, so that scholars can easily read 
them. Let's say that the license allows no other use.

Let us go on to hypothesize another publisher, specializing in 
print-on-demand of public domain works, an act that is legal worldwide, 
and even considered honorable by many. Let's say that they took 
electronic copies provided under the agreement above, and, either 
because they were misled into believing the works to be in the public 
domain, or because they just didn't care, advertised these works as 

Let's say the first publisher found out about this, and under United 
States copyright law, with the threat of statutory damages (which don't 
require a proof of monetary loss) demanded that the online provider 
remove all copies of the publisher's works, and never made those works 
available again except in print, for a fee.

Who won? Who lost? Which ideals have been advanced? Which ideals have 
been hindered?

If citation is what we all want, I can take Donat's public domain works, 
modify them, and republish them as my own. Plagiarism is not against the 
law in as many countries as copyright infringement is. And, to 
paraphrase Stephen, since he put it in the public domain, what basis of 
complaint does he have if others repurpose it to their own advantage?

Curtis Clark        http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark
Biological Sciences                  +1 909 869 4140
Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona CA 91768


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