RE: How Many Trees? (WAS: URGENT: Immediate ethical issue)

Subject: RE: How Many Trees? (WAS: URGENT: Immediate ethical issue)
From: John Posada <JPosada -at- book -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 May 2003 13:51:07 -0400

The description of the salt molecule is common knowledge. The paragraph
conveying that knowledge is copyrighted. Use the information in it, but
don't simply copy the paragraph without giving credit.

>Lets say (for example) that I am a Technical Writer
>employed by a company that produces salt crystals in
>assorted colors for human consumption. My assignment
>is to create a sales brochure for our newest color
>-"Really Red". Since I am not a SME (on salt), I start
>the research process and find the following
>information in a chemistry "book"(hard copy or online,
>the source does not matter):
>I decide that I want to use this paragraph (as
>written)in my brochure. Is this information subject to
>copyright laws or does this fall into the "Common
>Knowledge" domain?
>If that paragraph is subject to the copyright laws,
>isn't everything we write (from a technical
>standpoint) a "spin-off" of someone else's work? Can
>we state that anything written is really 100%

Only if every paragraph you write has been written before. The knowledge is
not the problem. Let's assume you are writing about the computer screen in
front of you. You are writing from the spec sheet supplied by the mfg. Now,
10 people are describing the same computer screen from the same spec sheet,
but writing their own content and containing the specifications. Even though
you are all using the same mfg spec sheet to write your own copy, everyone
is OK. Same facts, different content

Now, if one of you says "Ya know, I'm going to just copy the text of the
spec sheet and past it into my doc and apply my styles, but leave the
content alone." Same facts, same content. That is infringement.

John Posada
Senior Technical Writer
jposada -at- book -dot- com


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