The authors of this paper and a similar paper (Donat Agosti & Willi Egloff, (2009) Taxonomic information exchange and copyright: the Plazi approach. BMC Research Notes, 2:53) are part of a "Swiss-based international non-profit association" (Wikipedia: Plazi) that is pushing hard for open access to all taxonomic literature. They also claim to adhere to copyright law but I question their interpretation of it.

On the Plazi website, Willi Egloff is listed a partner in a law firm in Bern, Switzerland as well as a Director of Plazi in charge of legal issues. There is no indication of what type of law he specializes in but I would be surprised if it was copyright law.

I agree with Emily that this article is disturbing. If GNSI responds, it should include input from someone who specialized in copyright law--minimally US copyright law. It would be great to get an international perspective on copyright and intellectual property as well.

Julianne Snider
Asst. Director
Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery
116 Deike Bldg.
Penn State University
University Park PA 16802
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On 3/11/2017 6:28 PM, Emily S. Damstra wrote:
[log in to unmask]" type="cite">
Hi all,
Glendon Mellow just brought  to my attention this journal article about scientific images in scientific literature:

A few pertinent quotes:

"Standards in scientific imaging minimize creative variation to ensure that the subject is represented in a consistent way and can be integrated into the corpus of scientific literature. Because of the need to comply with standards, we argue that such images lack “sufficient individuality”, the central criterion used to determine if an illustration qualifies as a “work” in the sense of copyright law."

"Illustrations that follow predefined rules or conventions do not qualify as copyrightable works. Illustrations of biological information, especially in taxonomy, usually follow conventions that facilitate comparisons with similar illustrations. When this is the case, the images do not qualify as copyrightable works."

"Considering this outline of intellectual property rights, we conclude that principles of copyright do not normally apply to scientific images because most images adhere to the conventions of the discipline. Certainly, copyright is not applicable to images that are intended to facilitate comparison among related taxa."

I find it disturbing that this article was published in a peer reviewed journal. It sounds to me like these authors are trying to play at being Intellectual Property Judges. As far as I'm concerned, they're entitled to their opinions but they have no right to make blanket statements about what is or is not copyright infringement. I presume they've never tried to make a living creating images. It's disheartening to read this sort of thing. I wonder if GNSI should publish a reply. (Then again, perhaps it is better to simply ignore it).

I would be curious to know what everyone else thinks about this article.
Emily S. Damstra
natural science illustration
Guelph, Ontario
(519) 616-3654
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