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News for ICSTI members

Dear Members

Please find attached news from Executive Director Barry Mahon.

Kind regards

Sarah Byrne, Administrator
51, boulevard de Montmorency
75016 Paris, FRANCE
Tel: 33 1 45 25 65 92  Fax: 33 1 42 15 12 62

US Supreme Court rules on electronic database compilations.

(adapted from the Wall Street Journal June 25th 2001)

In a ruling on the right of freelance writers to, in effect, withhold
permission for online distribution and receive separate compensation for
articles placed in online databases which they had originally written
for print publication, the US Supreme Court stated "compilation in an
electronic database is different from other kinds of archival or library

The case arose from a decision by the New York Times to place such
articles in their online edition without requesting separate permissions
and without further compensation, a decision which was objected to by
the writers. 

The Court voted 7-2 in favour of the writers.

Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the
electronic databases reproduce and distribute articles "standing alone,"
and are not part of a collective work that would be shielded under US
federal copyright law. 

The Supreme Court decision supports that of the Second U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in New York which ruled that "privilege afforded
authors of collective works [under copyright law] does not permit the
publishers to license individually copyrighted works for inclusion in
electronic databases."

The case turned on whether electronic reproduction of a newspaper or
periodical constitutes a revision of the original print edition. Under
copyright law, publishers don't need an author's permission to produce a
revised version of the original edition. 

As I see it the Court ruled that placing articles in an electronic
database was not a revision. Does that mean that if the whole edition
was placed in the database then it would be considered a revision? Need
to see the text of the decision. 
Large publishers had argued that if they lost the case, they probably
would remove a substantial amount of material from electronic view
rather than fight with writers over permission and fees.

The question is - how does this decision affect (STM) journal publishers
who have placed articles in electronic compilations? Even if they did
not pay for their original publication do they require the permission of
authors to place the material in the electronic archive?  I would
imagine that most authors would have no objection but in today's climate
one never knows.

P.S. Anyone know where the text of the decision will be on the Web??

Howard Flack        http://www.unige.ch/crystal/ahdf/Howard.Flack.html
Laboratoire de Cristallographie               Phone: +41 22 702 62 49
24 quai Ernest-Ansermet             mailto:Howard.Flack@cryst.unige.ch
CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland                   Fax: +41 22 702 61 08

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