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RE: Legal Question

WOW, James!  This is a whole new world (my thoughts at the

> <snip> ...- but in many cases, the publishers are long gone.
> > 
> > Perhaps some background will help you understand what I'm thinking of. I
> > found a file on the KRIB called the "big plant list" that various people
> > have worked on over the years. Many of the plant names we use in the
> hobby
> > are wrong and those mistakes get propagated each time a new book or
> listing
> > comes out. That makes it difficult in some cases for different people to
> > know what plant is under discussion.
> > 
> > <snip, lots of synthesis work>  Right now, I have
> > 212 names listed - each of which represents either a genus that contains
> > aquatic and/or amphibious species (and thus of potential interest to
> aquatic
> > gardeners).  ...<snip>
> > 
> > This material (what I have collected to date) should all be "public
> domain",
> > but would certainly benefit in a historical perspective by being
> "fleshed
> > out" either by reference to the actual papers where the plants in
> question
> > were actually described and/or named. For many genera, this would mean
> going
> > into a library and photocopying books or journals published in the
> 1700's
> > and 1800's. <snip>
> > 
> > More recent and up to date "revisions" of various genera (such as the
> one
> > that Karen used as the basis of her articles) would also be of possibly
> > great interest/use <snip> ...
> > 
> > <snip> ... - What I'd like to see is the _complete_ article, <snip>
> > 
> > Basically, I'd like to see something set up so that in future people
> don't
> > necessarily have to "reinvent the wheel" when they want to know the name
> of
> > a plant or who first gave it its name, or any other information about
> the
> > plant that we can think to add. I'm not looking to publish a book for
> > personal gain - I think that something like this would be of most
> benefit if
> > it was on the AGA web site.
> > 
> > What I have right now is rather "bibliographic" in nature but could
> > relatively easily
> > be further fleshed out with information on the various species within
> each
> > genera - wouldn't it be nice if an AGA member in search of information
> on
> > aquatic plants could count on finding the information on the AGA web
> site or
> > in an AGA publication???? Locality, growth habit, cultivation
> information,
> > commercial sources, etc., etc........ even possibly photographs of the
> > plants - remembering that many of the photos in many books are labelled
> > incorrectly.
This is an outstanding effort you've already made, and a great 
(*valuable*) concept for all of us, hobbyists and professionals
alike.  A couple more thoughts, IMHO:

(1) This is not copyright infringement.  This is a new work, an
original work (your work).  This can be published formally or
informally, privately or professionally, even though many of the 
sources come from other public and private sources (that's 
research).  The only issues come up when you include other
whole works that are copyrighted.  Especially in this case,
the taxonomies and descriptions aren't really copyrighted
(the terminology is set by the science, and the acknowledgement
of the genus/species is in the public domain.)  You're simply
not allowed to copy the flowery sentence describing the
environs in which the species is found, and not allowed to
merely duplicate the collection of species someone else
painstakingly accumulated.  You're not doing that at all...
you're building a new list/set from numerous sources, 
correcting contents, reconciling reports.  I don't think you
have a problem. 

(2) Other works that are copyrighted may be included in such
a historical record or anthology or complete reference (this 
is commonly done, and most publishers support this).  This 
is commonly done in academic circles, as several authors in 
a field typically take individual responsibility for authoring an 
individual chapter or two for inclusion in a book, even though 
much of the material for that chapter was already published 
elsewhere.  (Most publishers are open to this, as it may be 
considered a form of advertising for other works by that author 
or on that topic, and since it's essentially selling/distributing 
the same information again.)

(3) You state you don't want to make money on the effort, and
that is admirable.  I agree that this content is most useful to
the public domain.  Ultimately, though, if you or the AGA
made a zillion dollars, but less than a ba-jillion dollars, that would
be fine (it's not relevant since this is an original work.)

(4) I was incorrect before... by stating "1974" yesterday, I should
have stated "1978".  Anyway, copyright protection is typically
life-of-the-author *plus* 70 years.  That's why we can all play
Mozart, distribute Shakespeare, and have Project Guttenberg
(online access to all the written classics) without paying royalties.
For these 1700's and 1800's publications, you're probably fine
(copyright is expired).  If there is more than one author, the 70
years begins after the last author dies.  For works-for-hire (the
copyright is owned by a publisher/company), the duration is 
95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever
is shorter.  A key revision to copyright law came into effect 
on January 1, 1978 that sometimes is a factor... if the work was
created before/after that date, and if it was/was not 
published/registered before/after that date.  The short version is 
that works NOT published/registered before that date are still 
protected for the terms listed above, but they can't expire before 
December 31, 2002 (that's not far off, and you can do your work 
now for publication in a year. ;-)

(5) The AGA is an organization, and also a publisher.  I'm 
pretty sure it would be viewed as a "professional society",
even though it espouses participation from hobbyists.  It 
seems like there is some kind of role it can play in 
managing/hosting this content and drawing on disparate 
resources, especially since it would hold Not-For-Profit status
(I don't know if that's been filed or not, but it's not hard to 
achieve.  Eric Olson, et. al., will merely have to do a good
job at hiding those off-shore accounts.) 

(6) I'd like to trade email thoughts with you offline... I'm working
on a (software) tool and language for documenting structured,
unstructured, and partially structured information.  I'd be happy
to donate to this effort, or help however I can.  If your content
base gets large (sounds like it will if it's not already), there is a 
real art to defining a content framework of heterogeneous 
and/or distributed information (you've probably already seen
or started to see that.)


Anyway, I'd say you're in *really* good shape now with what
you've described.  Continue doing what you're doing, contact
the copyright holder if that can be identified, but I wouldn't
worry too much about any of these (older) works where you
can't see the mark of the publisher, or if you can't find the
copyright holder.  The worst thing that will happen is that
somebody, someday, says "stop using my work", and you
can say, "ok".  Since you're trying to make historical information
available, I (personally) would err on the side of including 
everything (you have a lot of protection with an academic
motive over a profit motive.)  I have a hard time thinking plants 
people would be like that, though.  ;-))  Of course, this site 
is run by a woman and you know what THAT means.  ;-)))))))))


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