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
[log in to unmask]


Need to leave or subscribe to the Sciart-L listserv? Follow the instructions at