[Taxacom] Botanical Plagiarism

Dean Pentcheff pentcheff at gmail.com
Mon Mar 11 17:17:14 CDT 2013

I would caution interested readers that the laws concerning copyright are
far more complex and flexible than is generally asserted by biologists. The
more I learn about it, the less sure I am of what I think I know.

Copyright law differs significantly between countries (for example, whether
or not a compilation of facts can be copyrighted).

And also bear in mind that in United States law there are circumstances
under which copyrighted material can be used without having to seek the
permission of the copyright holder (one example is the set of uses that
fall under the "Fair Use" clause of the law).

Any time I see phrases like "obviously" or "of course" used in a copyright
context I get tweaky...

Dean Pentcheff
pentcheff at gmail.com
dpentche at nhm.org

On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 3:03 PM, Stephen Thorpe
<stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>wrote:

> Geoff wrote: >you seem to concentrate mostly on new names handed out by
> current publishers which can usually be taken as is<
> That's a trifle misleading! I don't "concentrate" on those, though I don't
> ignore them either (which would make Wikispecies slide quickly out of date,
> and keeping things up-to-date is a strength of the Wiki approach, as
> opposed to, say, NZOR). I also never uncritically accept them "as is", as
> in this example (http://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Tarastethus) where I
> disagree about who fixed the type species. I am equally involved in
> verifying old names from the primary literature.
> Sure, if one were to actually copy the WoRMS content *and layout* exactly,
> or near enough to exactly, without permission or attribution, then that
> would probably be a copyright infringement, but no such problems just
> setting out WoRMS content in standard taxonomic/bioinformatic format ...
> Cheers, Stephen
> ________________________________
> From: Geoff Read <gread at actrix.gen.nz>
> To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
> Cc: Mark J. Costello <markcost at gmail.com>; 'TAXACOM' <
> taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Sent: Tuesday, 12 March 2013 10:37 AM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Botanical Plagiarism
> Stephen wrote: "Sites like WoRMS just have to take it on the chin, if
> someone rips off their "hard work" ..."
> Well it can be very hard work Stephen as you would know, although you seem
> to concentrate mostly on new names handed out by current publishers which
> can usually be taken as is.
> In the case of WoRMS someone could copy only the lists of taxa names and
> their validities without acknowledgement, and who would care. WoRMS is
> there to facilitate people doing that. However, if they also reproduced
> the exact structure, or included the intermittent accompanying
> idiosyncratic comments, explanations, and annotations of the editors it
> would be very obvious plagiarism, as in the botany book instance.
> Geoff
> On Tue, March 12, 2013 8:59 am, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> > Mark Costello wrote:
> >
> >>I understand that while individual facts cannot be copyrighted, original
> >> compilations can (e.g. a species list within some context).<
> >
> > I'm not so sure! Certainly not in a global context, nor in a regional
> > (country or provincial) context. Maybe for some particular private
> reserve
> > or something? Going back to the global or country context, you cannot
> > copyright the fauna or flora (in the sense of a species list thereof)!
> > Suppose the country of "Costelloland" only has one species, Markus
> > biodiversitatis ... a described species. Suppose I make a website on the
> > biota of Costelloland. Can I copyright that? I think not! The issue isn't
> > just that there is only a single species. It is rather that I can get the
> > information straight from primary sources (in this case the original
> > description of the species). Nobody can tell if I got the name from the
> > original description or from the secondary website ...
> >
> > Stephen
> >
> > From: Mark J. Costello <markcost at gmail.com>
> > To: 'TAXACOM' <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> > Sent: Monday, 11 March 2013 10:28 PM
> > Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Botanical Plagiarism
> >
> > I understand that while individual facts cannot be copyrighted, original
> > compilations can (e.g. a species list within some context). However,
> > images
> > are not really facts and each one can be copyrighted (as they usually
> > are).
> >
> > Attribution is good practice but only required if the CC or other
> > 'permission' required it. I think this is why it is important to
> ascertain
> > and keep copyright so the holder can then formally complain about a
> breach
> > of the licence of use.
> >
> > We had a World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) database downloaded and
> > published as a book, for sale on Amazon. As owner of the IP and copyright
> > of
> > the WoRMS content, our society formally complained to the publisher who
> > removed it from their publication list in 2 weeks without further
> comment.
> > One of our colleagues wrote a book review on Amazon pointing out the
> > source
> > of the book and that its content, now updated, was available for free
> > online. I am not sure if we would have had such good grounds to complain
> > if
> > the author had actually attributed the source of the content because
> > arguably the re-organisation of the facts would have been a new creation.
> >
> > The only thing WoRMS asks users to do is cite the source (e.g. web page,
> > database as a whole) and the citation is at the foot of every page. Still
> > many scientists do not do so :)
> >
> > Best wishes
> > Mark
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Arthur Chapman
> > Sent: Friday, 8 March 2013 9:43 a.m.
> > Subject: [Taxacom] Botanical Plagiarism
> >
> > The following blog by Mark Watson about some botanical books that have
> > been appearing recently - all derived from internet sources without
> > attribution.may be of interest
> >
> > http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/1321
> >
> > Arthur D. Chapman
> > Ballan, Australia
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