5.0464 More on Copyright (1/53)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 20 Nov 1991 17:59:38 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0464. Wednesday, 20 Nov 1991.

Date: Wed, 20 Nov 1991 9:41:53 +0200 (EET)
Subject: RE: 5.0456 Word Lists and Copyright

Lorne Hammond's question is interesting.

1) "If I scan and then edit journal title pages into a WP file by
author, article title, journal, issue, page numbers, have I breached
copyright?" In this form the answer must be "no", because this is
what every library that catalogs books, journals, journal articles
(which some business and industrial libraries routinely catalog) etc.
does all the time. LC even sells the fruit of their labours, in the
form of microfiche and computer tapes. I am no lawyer but doubt that
even lawyers could maintain that it's copyright material if you scan
it in but not if you type it in :-)

2) But the form "to whom does the information on the title page belong?
To the author? The journal?" etc. sounds different. Database producers
(Dialog, BRS etc.) routinely get this information from journal
publishers, along with the article abstracts, and compile a product
from it that they sell for thousands of dollars per copy or tens of
dollars per remote use. But they pay the journal publishers for the
tapes, don't they? Are they paying for the information, or for the
work of making the tape?

As far as I know, copyright law does not cover KNOWLEDGE or INFORMATION,
but only the FORM OF PRESENTATION of that information. So you cannot
quote an enclyclopedia entry without permission, but you can take the
information in it and present it in your own words, and you then
yourself have copyright on THAT PRESENTATION of it. We all do it all
the time. I think this is the key to the whole question. The database
producers are paying, not for the information, but to avoid the larger
costs of getting hold of all copies of a few thousand journals and
typing (or scanning :-) ) the information manually, one by one.
The journal or author does not have copyright on the information
that John Smith wrote an article called "More About Widgets" in
such-and-such an issue of Gadgets Today; they do have copyright
on the layout of the title page that gives this information --
but then that's not what you're transferring to your manual or
computer database, is it? Similarly, I do not have copyright
on the information that my name is such-and-such and my address
is so-and-so; the phone companies and mail-order firms can put
it in their directories and databases without asking me (they
ought to ask me before giving it to any old Tom, Dick or Harry,
but that's a privacy issue, not a copyright one). And similarly,
the court decision I quoted a few days ago says that anyone else
can take it out of those directories without paying the phone
company -- and put it in their computer addresses file, or
database, or whatever.

I would therefore conclude that building a database of bibliographic
information is OK. If you include verbatim the abstract published
with the article, you're skating on thinner ice.

Comments, anyone?

Judy Koren, Haifa.