[Taxacom] Systema Dipterorum = closed down

Dr Brian Taylor dr.brian.taylor at ntlworld.com
Fri Feb 17 02:23:36 CST 2012

Well Chris, I care as the same has happened to me just this week.

My much visited (how often I don't know but the feedback has always been
terrific) and used website, "The Ants of sub-Saharan Africa", has been put
off line by the AMNH after some 14 years of evolving existence as a
consequence of a unilaterally perceived concern over copyright breaches by
the enormously useful Antbase.org

My site which costs the AMNH nothing other than the costs of server
maintenance (?), which has never been raised as an issue, ironically builds
directly on the tradition of the great Congo Expedition and Wheeler's 1922
Ants of the Congo, an AMNH milestone proudly acclaimed on the Museum

Since transferral to the AMNH, as a sub-unit of Antbase.org, I have received
many, many emails of appreciation and seeking cooperation, etc.  The issue
of copyright has never been raised. The taxonomic component includes fully
documented webpages on 1925 named and as yet unnamed species,  In part, this
is because something like two-thirds of the fully referenced material, i.e.
digital copies of original descriptions and illustrations, pre-dates 1940
(1372 of ca 2000 species).  The main sources of modern literature are the
publications by B Bolton, for which I was granted permission to use by the
Natural History Museum, London.  All the other modern material originates
from open-source publications, e.g. in Zootaxa, and websites, such as
Antweb.org.  All species pages have a link to the appropriate page on
The species pages include my personal drawings of 171 species and my
personal photographs of 763 species, plus a small number of photographs sent
to me for use on the website.
The site also includes illustrated keys compiled by me.  Some have their
roots in published keys and many are wholly original.  Copyright of
published keys probably has no relevance as almost all those of the modern
(post-1940) era incorporate elements from earlier literature.
The site as a whole is unique for ants, even on a global scale, in having a
large quantity of ecological observations and reviews, all of which are
fully referenced.
Last but not least, the site contains completely novel work on specimens
from the 25 African countries and some forty collectors.

Apparently, such knowledge is of no consequence to the AMNH.

I do not know when the site will re-open although there is a regularly
updated archive version on the UK Web Archive at

The issue of "permanency" of sites such as ours has been a worry of mine
almost since I started the site.  The first version shut when the hosting
project leader retired and the research group moved to another University.

Before anyone asks, I have never actually worked for an academic
institution, University, Museum, whatever, since my post-doc venture into
the real world of entomology, i.e. where the insects do their thing.  I did,
however, get great and spontaneous support for my mosquito taxonomy work in
the early 1970's from the Bishop Museum and John Belkin at UCLA.

I conclude by expressing my gratitude to the AMNH for almost a decade of
hosting and to Donat Agosti, who got my site under the umbrella of Antbase.

Good luck to you in finding a way to re-open your database.

Brian Taylor

On 17/02/2012 03:05, "Chris Thompson" <xelaalex at cox.net> wrote:

> Whether any one care or not,
> the Systema Dipterorum  (www.diptera.org) online database to names of flies
> has been closed down.
> This database which has had various names over the years as I have migrated
> from different jobs but never really has been supported to provide
> information about fly names is finally being retired as I have been kicked
> out by Bob Robinson of Smithsonian of my last home after almost a half
> century of what I thought was a useful and productive association.
> However, this has a positive aspect. Clearly the Smithsonian has decided
> Diptera names and associated information has no value to the public. Whether
> that is true or not now can be determined. So, if you feel Systema
> Dipterorum was useful, complain! The key players are Jon Coddington
> (coddingtonj at si.edu) and Bob Robinson (robinsonb at si.edu).
> Sincerely,
> Chris
> from home
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