Closed bibliography on the Cambridge train

#jiscopenbib #okfn

I came back from the British Library and Imperial War Museum (I’ll tell you why later) on Thursday on the 1615. One of the privilege of the 1615 is that if you get there after 1605 you have to stand or sit on the floor among the folding bicycles. Because I wanted to hack I sat on the floor. I overheard a conversation between two hackers and have caught most of it. They were talking about a book, which I think was about software but I couldn’t see it.

She: “That looks an interesting book”

He: “Yes, it’s written by one of the great software gurus”

She: “What’s it’s called?”

He: “I can’t tell you?”

She: “Why not?”

He: “It’s copyright”

She: “Yes, I know the book is copyright, but I just want to know the title”

He: “Sorry I can’t tell you. It’s copyright”

She: “I only what to know the title”

He: “It’s copyright so I can’t tell you”

She: “Don’t be silly. The title isn’t copyright.”

He: “Yes it is. The whole book is copyright”.

She: “But not the title, surely. Where does it say that the title is copyright?”

He: “Here… it says… ” (Apparently read from the front matter)

He: “All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher and author.”

He: “So I can’t tell you”.

She: “But the title isn’t part of the publication”

He: “Yes it is. This is a book, right?”

She: “Yes”

He: “and a book is a publication”

She: “Yes”

He: “and the title is part of the book?”

She: “… well, yes”

He: “So I can’t tell you”.

She: “But I am not asking you to put it in a database. I just want you to tell me”

He: “But telling you is transmitting part of the publication. Speech is a transmission. It’s an otherwise. I couldn’t even tap it out in Morse code”

She: “That’s rubbish”

He: “No. Copyright matters. You wouldn’t steal sweets from a child, would you? Telling you the title is stealing. It’s piracy. I’m afraid I don’t like breaking the law”

She: “Well, the law depends on which country it was published in. Where was it published?”

He: “I can’t tell you.”

She: “… don’t tell me, it’s copyright.”

He: “… that’s right”.

She: “in fact you shouldn’t even have told me that it’s copyright.”

He: “Steaming wombats! I’ve broken the law. ”

She: “Well, can I read the title? Surely that isn’t transmitting part of the publication?”

He: “Not sure. I’d have to ask a librarian.”

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11 Responses to Closed bibliography on the Cambridge train

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics, Cambridge - Closed bibliography on the Cambridge train « petermr’s blog [] on

  2. M. Fioretti says:

    Great post. The scaring part is how much this is actually close and conform to the letter of the actual laws on copyright, or at least to how corporations would like copyright to be (think ACTA). Sadly, (see the current behavior of many Internet users only provides to such corporations, without any real benefit to the users themselves, lots of “evidence” that regulations like ACTA are urgent and necessary.

  3. While I appreciate both the point and the humor in Peter’s story, it is if course totally wrong in its underlying presumption, at least in the US:
    (from the FAQ produced by the US Copyright office
    How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?
    Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199, for further information. However, copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark.

  4. Phil Lord says:

    This would be considering to a quotation covered by fair dealing. At least I think so. I am a little confused as to whether copyright covers printed and written representations. I don’t know about speech.
    Glad to have cleared that up for every body.

    • pm286 says:

      I have only reported the conversation, which was clearly infected by CopyrightFUD. CopyrightFUD is a risk-averse approach to copyright, which has the idempotent result that the answer is “You must not”.
      Here, for example, is the Wikipedia definition of “Fair Dealing” in the UK:
      Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), fair dealing is limited to the following purposes: research and private study (both must be non-commercial), criticism, review, and news reporting (sections 29, 30, 178). Although not actually defined as a fair dealing, incidental inclusion of a copyrighted work in an artistic work, sound recording, film, broadcast or cable programme doesn’t infringe copyright.
      The two people I overheard were not carrying out private study (I overheard it so it couldn’t have been private) and was clearly not research. It was wasn’t criticism, review or news reporting, so it would not have been fair dealing for those infected by CopyrightFUD. So they were clearly very close to breaking the law and going to prison.

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