[Humanist] 29.483 granting permission (or not)

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Nov 18 07:32:20 CET 2015


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 483.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Norman Gray" <norman at astro.gla.ac.uk>                    (67)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.481 granting permission?

  [2]   From:    "Cosgrave, Mike" <M.Cosgrave at ucc.ie>                       (3)
        Subject: RE:  29.481 granting permission?

  [3]   From:    Manfred Thaller <manfred.thaller at uni-koeln.de>            (21)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.481 granting permission?

  [4]   From:    Kathryn_Tomasek <tomasek_kathryn at wheatoncollege.edu>       (4)
        Subject: Re:  29.481 granting permission?

  [5]   From:    Donald Weinshank <donweinshank at gmail.com>                 (10)
        Subject: Re:  29.481 granting permission?

  [6]   From:    "Jaskot, Paul" <P-Jaskot at NGA.GOV>                         (15)
        Subject: permission request

  [7]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (18)
        Subject: Re:  29.481 granting permission?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2015 08:58:33 +0000
        From: "Norman Gray" <norman at astro.gla.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.481 granting permission?
        In-Reply-To: <20151117080257.284DD6EAC at digitalhumanities.org>


Willard, hello.

On 17 Nov 2015, at 8:02, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

> The following request has come to me for selections from Humanist. I 
> am simply at a loss as to what a proper response would be. Everything 
> on Humanist has, as far as I know, always been in the public domain. 
> Would I be creating a problem of any kind by granting permission?
>
> Many thanks for any advice from legally wiser souls.

I am not a copyright expert, but my impression is that while Humanist 
postings are 'public domain' in the UK legal sense (sc, they are visible 
to the public), they are not 'public domain' in the US legal sense (sc, 
unowned/uncopyrighted intellectual property).

My understanding is that the copyright in a Humanist posting, as in any 
text, is owned by its author from the moment of its creation, and unless 
an explicit copyright assignment is made (which of course does not 
happen here), it remains that author's copyright.  Thus I think you, 
Willard, have no authority to grant permission.

I would be surprised if such permission were really necessary, however.  
Humanist postings are written to be distributed, and people know that 
they are archived.  Many Humanist contributors are academics or 
para-academics who would presumably be happy to be cited.  As long as 
they _are_ cited, of course (and the precise typeset form of that 
citation is a nice headache for another section of the publisher's 
staff).  So I don't think there would be a moral problem here.

There might be a theoretical legal problem (Humanist postings are short 
enough that a citation would involve quoting more than 10% of the 
posting (is that the threshold?; I can't remember)), but since the 
chance of someone suing the publisher for a violation is surely remote, 
they can presumably rationally ignore this.

One general solution (though perhaps this is entering 
hammer-cracking-nut territory) may be to assert for the future that 
Humanist postings are deemed to be made with the CC-BY or CC-BY-SA 
licence [1], put a note to this effect in the list signature, and alert 
folk to this when they sign up.  That would assert that the text of the 
postings is copyrighted by the authors, but that people are free to 
reuse it as long as the source is quoted.  In this particular case, the 
publisher permissions checker could tick the relevant box 
straightforwardly and unambiguously.

[1] The latter is the variant used by, for example, Wikipedia 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Copyrights>

----

While we're on the subject, I'll quote a (possibly inadvertently) 
entertaining passage from a lawyer contributor to another list, talking 
about copyright waivers and their near-impossibility under English law.  
I won't link to the source, nor cite its author, because this list 
deliberately does not maintain an archive.  I genuinely do not know 
where or how this fits into my argument above.

> How do you "waive" a property right? English law has never liked the 
> idea
> of unowned property. As a rule of thumb, if it can be owned, someone 
> owns
> it. They may not know they do and that someone might be the Crown, but
> nevertheless is belongs to someone.
>
> Sure, some things can't be owned at all (eg corpses). You could argue 
> that
> animals in ferae naturae (i.e. wild) are "unowned" until caught, but a
> common lawyer might say actually they once you own them they aren't 
> wild
> animals any more.

Of all the things that a corpse can be, a curiously unownable thing was 
not one that had occurred to me.

Best wishes,

Norman

-- 
Norman Gray  :  https://nxg.me.uk
SUPA School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2015 11:10:55 +0000
        From: "Cosgrave, Mike" <M.Cosgrave at ucc.ie>
        Subject: RE:  29.481 granting permission?
        In-Reply-To: <20151117080257.284DD6EAC at digitalhumanities.org>


Well, I am only a minor player in this forum, but I would suggest that one not 'grant' any entity like Pearson a 'right' because one cannot predict how their lawyers might later use it to assert ownership of the whole archive! 

Even a clear statement that it is in the public domain might tempt them to ingest it into a database, add metadata and claim a 'database right' over the whole archive!

Mike Cosgrave



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2015 06:02:50 -0600
        From: Manfred Thaller <manfred.thaller at uni-koeln.de>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.481 granting permission?
        In-Reply-To: <20151117080257.284DD6EAC at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard,

the many things I do NOT believe in religiously, even if supporting 
them, include open access.

But in this case, requiring the right to quote at a length which has 
always been covered by the right to cite somebody else's work, I discover 
a clear case of principiis obsta. If you need a granted right to quote 
at THAT length we are right on our way to negotiating over each 
individual footnote.

I would politely inform them, that they are free to quote, but you 
cannot give away a right you do not claim to have.

Kind regards,
Manfred



-- 
Prof. Dr. Manfred Thaller
Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Informationsverarbeitung, 
Universität zu Köln
Humanities Computer Science, University at Cologne
Postadresse / Mailing address: Albertus-Magnus-Platz, D 50923 Köln
Besuchsadresse / Visiting address: Kerpener Str. 30, Eingang Weyertal, II. Stock
Tel. +49 - 221 - 470 3022, FAX +49 - 221 - 470 7737



--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2015 08:01:25 -0500
        From: Kathryn_Tomasek <tomasek_kathryn at wheatoncollege.edu>
        Subject: Re:  29.481 granting permission?
        In-Reply-To: <20151117080257.284DD6EAC at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard et al.,

Pearson seeks out innovative work that generous people share openly and tries to pull it into textbooks and online products that they then sell for profit. The request raises a deeper question about open accession in my view. 
But this is the first time I have ever posted to the list, where I have been lurking for years. So just my two cents.

Kathryn Tomasek



--[5]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2015 09:44:30 -0500
        From: Donald Weinshank <donweinshank at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  29.481 granting permission?
        In-Reply-To: <20151117080257.284DD6EAC at digitalhumanities.org>


Since I started this thread when the editors contacted me,  let me comment.

I replied to the editors that, to the best of my knowledge, everything is
in the public domain. I then suggested that the contact Willard.

I recommend this policy.
1. Everything is in the public domain.
2. Be sure to cite the source.

----------

My original posting dealt with the use of the word "string." I had no
recollection of even  having posted this comment.

Don Weinshank. 517.337.1545


--[6]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2015 15:10:18 +0000
        From: "Jaskot, Paul" <P-Jaskot at NGA.GOV>
        Subject: permission request
        In-Reply-To: <20151117080257.284DD6EAC at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard and the List,

A quick response from the American context: this culture of permissions is insidious and affecting all of us in our publishing and research. This seems once again like an overzealous legal staff trying to cross its T's and dot its I's. All of this, merely to cite a scholar's position published on the list?!

Given the interests of the list, it would seem to me to respond with something like the following:

1)      Thanking them for the reference to Dr. Weinshank's statement on the list, and for clearly giving full author credit and proper citation of source.

2)      Remind them that Fair Use is a long-standing practice in academia covered by many legal precedents, and that Fair Use fosters the growth of scholarship for publisher and author alike.

Honestly, even calling up Fair Use seems a bit farfetched for this particular case, as I understand it (there is no copyright on statements made on a listserve, yes?). I'm not sure why a simple footnote wouldn't take care of the whole situation!

For those interested, Fair Use has become something that US academics are gradually becoming more comfortable asserting in the culture of permissions. For example, Fair Use of images in copyright or of unknown copyright may be allowable under specific situations. See the Code of Best Practices issued this past February by the College Art Association for more information: http://www.collegeart.org/fair-use/

Best, Paul

Paul B. Jaskot
Andrew W. Mellon Professor
Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 842-6643
p-jaskot at nga.gov



--[7]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2015 10:51:42 -0500
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  29.481 granting permission?
        In-Reply-To: <20151117080257.284DD6EAC at digitalhumanities.org>


They're just engaging in arse covering, and there's nothing wrong with
that. It's probably necessary because you don't have an explicit copyright
statement here:

http://digitalhumanities.org/humanist

None of the links at the top of the page are working, by the way.

You might want to think about what kind of copyright policy you want to
have, post it to the listserve page, and then have future subscribers agree
to it when they subscribe. A desirable copyright policy might be an
interesting and useful topic of discussion here, actually.

I would recommend -- whether necessary or not -- asking Pearson to attempt
to contact the author of the specific post to request permission. That
seems at least polite.

Or you could take this opportunity to stand up against the Pearson Death
Star, but as fun as that would be, it's probably not necessary. I might
just for the fun of it. See how many hoops they will jump through before
giving up.

Jim R






More information about the Humanist mailing list