Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Help conservation and science by being more proactive in managing your copyright

Botanical floras are subject to copyright, In the UK you are prohibited from copying someone's text until 70 years after their death, although there are some limited exceptions.
Copyright is automatic and protects you from someone else profiting from your work without your permission. This concept works well for J.K. Rowling, but it is a disaster for science and conservation. Why? Well, I expect most people do not write floras for money, but to communicate to other interested people. Floras are usually printed in small volumes, often only in one edition. Once they are sold out, they can be very hard to obtain. If a person of 25 wrote a flora, then that volume could pass out of copyright more than 100 year from now.
What does this mean in practise? People who want to reuse floras for research and conservation can’t. Historical publications are essential for understanding change in our flora. They contain information about the present that will be an invaluable source of information in the future. Floras contains all sorts of useful information, keys, pictures, descriptions and observations. They only have scientific value, and no one will make money from them. Just look at how useful open resources such as Wikipedia and the Biodiversity Heritage Library are. If you are an author be more proactive in managing your copyrights. Think about publishing with the creative commons CC-BY licence or perhaps put an embargo period on your licencing, after which the work becomes open-access.

This work by Quentin Groom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.