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Copyright

 
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This is a quick look at Copyright, Fair Use and Public Domain issues relevant to the project. For more in-depth information visit the U.S. Government Copyright site at http://www.copyright.gov.

Copyright is the ownership of a work (such as words, photographs, music, art work) by the creator of the work of the current copyright holder. In the United States a work is protected at the moment of creation. As the copyright holder you do not need to see or have the copyright symbol appear (many owners choose to use it) to have a work protected.

This means:

  • You cannot use a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder.
  • You must ask permission, generally in writing, and have the copyright owner indicate permission or denial.
  • The copyright holder may choose to ignore you, grant you permission or deny you permission to use the work.
  • Check the usage policy on the web page or make the effort to secure permission.

When in doubt - do not use a copyrighted work without permission.

Concepts, Ideas, Formulas and The Merger Doctrine
A concept, idea or theory cannot be copyrighted. So you are free to state that the Earth is flat (or round) and post it on your web site. You can't be sued for using that theory. But if you use an artistically rendered copyrighted image created by another person, you have just violated a copyright.


A fact cannot be copyrighted
- if you type or create an image of the formula for sugar and post it on a web site, you have every right to do so. If you use an artistically stylized way of rendering the formula (that you found in a text book), then you are in violation.

The Merger Doctrine - sometimes the idea and the way you can express an idea are so close that they can't be separated. In this picture of a formula there are limited ways to express this chemical without using particular universally accepted symbol structures. The symbol structures cannot be copyrighted. You are free to use the conventional way of graphically expressing the formula.

The same is true for maps outlining the human anatomy and web page navigation. You are not free, however, to copy a formula out of a page of a copyrighted textbook or to use an illustrator's particular unique style of rendering a formula.

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