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Posted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:56 am
by Geoff Green
I am currently writing a book on British bird names. To do this I have researched various books eg dictionaries and on-line eg Wikipedia. If I reproduce the names of the birds eg their local and scientific names that appear in these sources am I breaching copyright? Also these books give an explanation of the derivation of the names, would using this material, reproduced in my own words be breaching copyright?
Also I am writing up the various myths and folklore stories relating to birds. Again I have taken these oft repeated stories from books and the web. Again if I re-tell these stories in my own words ie not copy exactly the referenced material, am I breaching copyright?
My assumption is that these names and stories are common knowledge and the writers of the books / web sites are merely reproducing known information and they are not original, creative works by them and are not subject to copyright. But I might be wrong!
Any help please.


Geoff Green

Posted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:10 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Geoff,
I think you have got this correctly. Names of people and animals etc are 'facts' and cannot be subject to copyright because they are ideas. Equally, I suggest that relating how the names came about and any mythology associated with them are equally 'facts' rather than any one author's intellectual property. So as long as you recast the expression of these stories in your own words, that will be fine.
Indeed if it helps to give context to your research, a recent change to the law has reinforced the fair dealing exception to quote from other works. So you can use small snippets of other people's published work in order to provide contrast or illustrate a dispute for example, so long as you credit your sources.
For example:
In his seminal work 1 on ostrichs, John Smith says "The ostrich was originally called an oastridge because they nested on the roofs of oast houses", whereas, Bartram Jones claims 1 "the name ostrich derives from their rich plumage, and 'ost' which is Afrikaans for tall".
1. John Smith All You Ever Wanted To Know About Ostrichs 1927 Oxford Polytechnic Press
2. Bartram Jones The Children's Anthology of Odd Birds 1963 Madd & Loony Ltd
(Apologies that superscript doesn't work in BB Code)

Posted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:41 am
by Geoff Green
Thanks for the prompt and useful reply.
What you said is re-assuring, as I want to be legal in what I do.

I assume that where I have used a book for several references, a single attribution will be fine? And for web sites, give the address?
Little query - is Wikipedia open source?

Might I also ask - if I quote well known rhymes eg "Who killed cock robin" there is no copyright infringement here? as it so v old.

Thanks again for your help.

Geoff Green

Posted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 4:09 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Geoff,
Yes a single reference for multiple quotes from the same source should suffice. The law merely says "provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement", so I don't think you need to clutter up your articles with repetitive credits.

As for Wikipedia, I can do no better than quote what it says at the foot of each Wikipedia entry:
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.
Just be careful when it comes to illustrations found in Wikipedia as they are usually the things where the additional terms may apply.

And with common sayings and very old rhymes and songs, you can generally assume they are not in copyright. But watch out for the odd ones where copyright is still claimed (for instance the song Happy Birthday to You is still claimed as being in copyright by Warner Chappell Music, although this is widely disputed). And some nursery rhymes are surprisingly modern. Of course, if you find that a song or rhyme you wish to use is in copyright, you can still use the quotation exception mentioned earlier, provided a credit is given. As you are probably aware, Who killed Cock Robin is most certainly in the public domain.

Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:48 pm
by Geoff Green
Thank you once again for a full and quick reply.
I feel re-assured now, so have no excuse not to knuckle under and get writing!
THanks again.

Geoff Green