[Taxacom] another ebay auction of naming rights

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Fri Oct 23 11:28:38 CDT 2015

On 10/22/15 10:36 AM, Les Watling wrote:
> On reading this discussion, I wonder whether two things are here 
> conflated, viz., the issue of the specimen vs the issue of the name. 
> It is not the specimen that is for sale, its the name. Granted the 
> name is attached to the specimen, but the specimen itself can be 
> shipped, etc., and still declared to have no commercial value because 
> the specimen is not to be sold.
This sort of nuance is something that would require lawyers to figure 
out. In a sense, it was a rhetorical point, just to raise awareness of 
the kinds of special treatment we have come to expect (and take for 
granted) as academics, rather than expressing serious concern that the 
postal service will start refusing to take my packages. The broader 
point is that we DO need to think very carefully about whatever forms of 
special treatment we DO receive, and how a public perception that 
taxonomy is a for-profit enterprise could jeopardize those few 
privileges, *even if that perception is not accurate*. There is no logic 
to public outrage; it is little different from pitchforks and torches, 
except that it's Twitter and Facebook now, instead. We cannot afford to 
ignore this, since you can't often reason with an angry mob.

Along those lines, Philippe Bouchet has given me permission to pass 
along his commentary on this precise matter, as it is very explicit in 
its concern:

"Personally, I am vehemently opposed to the practice of auctioning names 
of new species - even with the best of intentions of raisung funds to 
support taxonomic work. My main reason is the following. When I mount 
expeditions, I have to negotiate permits with host countries. I claim 
that I mount expeditions to create new knowledge, that all knowledge 
generated will be public, and that the research generated by specimens 
collected in the host country is non-commercial. This is the basis for 
being issued an "academic" / "gratuitous" research permit [terminology 
varies with different countries, of course]. Now, if the practice of 
auctioning / selling new species names would become widespread, I would 
legitimately be faced with an accusation of double language: "M. 
Bouchet, you tell us that you want to collect specimens for academic 
research, to discover new species, and that you gain no commercial 
benefit from it. But this is not true, I see on this website that a new 
species name has been auctioned 3,000 USD [or 5 or 30 or whatever]. In 
the context of the Nagoya Protocol, how much of these benefits are you 
going to share with my country?". This would be the end of academic 
field work."

This point is not an exaggeration, not purely hypothetical - in many 
countries, collecting permits DO cost different amounts if they are 
commercial, and the Nagoya Protocol might indeed be violated if people 
are auctioning names for taxa from other signatory countries besides 
their own. Similarly, as others have noted, CITES requires one type of 
permit for non-commercial trade, but specimens with commercial value 
require a different permit, harder to get and more expensive (as Scott 
Thomson reminded me, "after all, CITES is a trade agreement, and once an 
item is deemed commercial it is deemed subject to that trade 
agreement"). Do we really want to run this risk on some lawyers' 
interpretation of what constitutes "commercial value"?

This is a road we have to think VERY carefully about heading down, 
because the consequences could be far-reaching and community-wide. As an 
entomologist, for example, I am especially concerned, because we still 
have an estimated 5-50 million insects yet to describe (depending on 
whose estimates you prefer to cite), and further barriers to collecting 
or shipping insects would have disproportionately catastrophic 
consequences for our discipline.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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