Re: IMI methodolgy

Subject: Re: IMI methodolgy
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 1 Aug 1997 10:48:31 -0500

At 11:05 AM 8/1/97 -0400, you wrote:
>Is there anyone on the list that works for IMI?
>I was taught Information Mapping when I worked for a company nearly ten
>years ago. The company took the basics of IMI and revised it somewhat to
>fit their corporate policies.
>Later, when I was hired for a contract where there was no existing
>documentation, I created a template for documentation that was even more of
>a revision from IMI's standards in addition to other styles I had learned
>during the intervening years. I was told by the company that they had
>approached IMI once and were told that if IMI principles were followed in a
>document (like block lines, chunking, the 7+/-2 rules, etc.) that they
>would have to pay a royalty back to IMI.
>I need to know if this is true so I won't accidently break any copyright
>laws. At this point, many years have passed with me working contracts at
>several firms, all with different documentation styles. I'm sure my
>personal working template is very much removed from the original IMI
>formats, even if I remembered exactly what those were.
>You can contact me off line. I don't use anything like this in my current
>position but I am working on a training manual at home in which I may have
>to make extensive format revisions, if this statement on royalties is
Kathy says in this message that I can contact her off line, and I have done
so. But I thought this was an issue that badly needs laid to rest. I hear it
all too often. I actually had a client object to the layout we proposed for
them because "It was too close to Info Mapping". Hogwash and horsefeathers.

The only things that IMI owns are its trademark and the copyrights on the
_wording_ and _graphics_ they've created for their own manuals and training
materials. And "copyright" in this case means the order of the words, and
the actual pictures they've drawn for themselves. You can't photocopy IMI's
manuals or training materials and use them for yourself.

But everything else...EVERYTHING ELSE...the bars, the lines, the patterns of
organization, the "7 plus or minus 2" concept, is entirely, totally,
completely, and utterly available and in the public domain. Information and
layout cannot be protected against anyone, any more than Time magazine can
sue you for mimicking its interior layout.

Mind you, you can't use the Time logo, nor mislead the public by (at least
in some cases) appropriating the "look and feel" (by, for example, naming
your mag "Tine" and using Time's colors, typography, and positioning),
because Time is considered to have invested a great deal in its distinctive
look, and the public can be fooled all too easily by a too-close imitator.
But you can steal their interior layout techniques at will. The Copyright
Office won't even accept "layout" as part of the protection you want to
claim. Further, you can readily steal the information in those pages. You
can, for example, rewrite the whole article entirely in your own words and
resell it as your own. Ethics demand at least a nod toward the Time folks by
giving them credit, but the law won't intervene. Information is public. It's
the _expression_ of it that's protected. And how you organize it on a page
is your own affair. Once you've done it, you can protect the whole page, but
you can't keep someone else from using your technique with their own pages,
nor can you demand a royalty. Time, for example, can protect its own pages
even if those pages are nothing but reprints from others, but it can't
protect the _way_ the page is arranged.

In my experience, neither IMI nor its instructors actually _say_ that IMI
owns the layout techniques, but they sure don't point out that they don't
own them. If I want to design a page with sideheads, lines between chunks
and a limitation of 7 steps to a procedure, then I can do so with absolute
impunity. It's the _impression_ you're left with in an IMI class, though,
that makes you think IMI is somehow the owner of all this stuff. They do
nothing to correct that notion, and indeed they benefit from it. But if it
isn't copyrighted or trademarked, it's fair game. Layout, which is what the
IMI theory mostly comes down to in print, isn't protected in either case.

I've used some of the IMI principles, as I'm sure most of us have. Many of
them are sound. They should be; they're based on publicly-available research
done many years ago. But IMI is, in my view, being rather disingenous by
letting students believe implicitly that IMI owns the techniques it's
promulgating. Bosh. That's tantamount to saying that because you're using
the same chords in your song that Garth Brooks used in one of his, that you
owe him royalties forever more. That would put a kink in the music industry,

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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