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RE: Legal Question

> Question - What are the legal issues surrounding the posting of scientific
> papers? Can you order a copy of a paper and then post it to the web if you
> place the information concerning the original copyright holder with it
> (like, the Journal it came from, etc.).

This is a copyright issue.  I'm not an attorney, but I've 
studied this issue from a number of sides for various
reasons and I'll echo a couple things off the top of my

(1) The author is implicitly the copyright holder, even
by doing nothing.  However, the copyright holder often
makes the work explicitly copyrighted when a 
"(C) Copyright by AUTHOR" appears on the work, and
that gives extra copyright protection in some countries.

(2) Just doing a "(C)" doesn't count... it actually has to be
a "c" inside a circle for some countries to honor the copyright.

(3) Copyrights can be filed with a country's government, but 
typically this isn't done with most works.  Filing is cheap ($15
or so in the US) and easy and is often done by the copyright 
holder for computer software, because the copyright holder 
can sue for damages if someone infringes on a software 
copyright that has been filed.

(4) In general, violations of the copyright law aren't punished
as severely if the violator is not intentionally violating the law,
or if the violator has no financial gain for violating the law.  In
other words, minor "exemptions" are given to people for
academic purposes such as instructors/professors, critics
and reviewers, or other reporter-type people.

(5) A copyright in one country (more or less) is honored by
all countries as a result of international agreements from 1974
and before.

(6) Since 1974, the term "All Rights Reserved" doesn't mean
anything.  Prior to 1974, it enforced full protection in some
countries.  Don't use it (it's meaningless now).

(7) It's really not a good idea to try to reprint an entire article
or work, especially if that article or work is already published
in a journal (magazine).  Publishing selections or subsets of the
work is much easier to defend.  The publisher usually requires full
copyright ownership (controlling all reprint requests) for a given
work it publishes.  Exceptional effort is usually required for
an author to get something published in a magazine that was
already published elsewhere.

(8) The copyright holder can at any time explicitly make
the work freely available (distributable) within the public
domain.  This is usually done with a public statement.
If that happens, it's that way forever.


In short, making references to a publication is never a problem.
Making links to a site or article is never a problem, although
(of course) it's a courtesy to ask permission to reference
a "personal" or "private" web site.  You can include quotes
and subsets of any article, although the bigger the excerpt
the more likely you are violating the copyright.  Always cite
sources for any quote.  If you make any money at all, directly
or indirectly, you are most likely violating the copyright law
(and much less likely to get leniency from a court.)  Quotes
on a hobby web site are probably fine, but if that hobby web
site has hobby products for sale, don't tempt fate without
explicit permission.

If it's been published, the publisher probably has (or would
have) the article posted on a web site if the publisher wanted 
free public access (but that still does not permit re-distribution;
you can't copy the page to your web site, even if you cite the
original source).  Most professional journals or organizations
allow for some level of online access, although many are
member-only or subscriber-only sites (so they can show
financial damages if you publish their work without 
permission.)  So, for these articles, we're probably going to
have to stick with summaries, small quotes, and references
to the article posted on the web unless the publisher allows
(explicitly) for us to copy/distribute them in this forum.

I hope that helps.  In short, I think a "synthesis" or "critique"
type approach that summarizes salient points is the best (you
are now a journalist or academic, whether you are paid or not.)
If something is really good and you're feeling ambitious, contact
the author/publisher directly to get explicit permission.


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