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Dissertation to commercial e-book

Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 1:07 pm
by Deno
Good day,

I completed my master’s dissertation several months ago and have been thinking of commercially publishing part of the dissertation as an e-book.

The section I was thinking to publish covers the historical development of certain types of aircraft and also their current uses.

Within the document I have a number of photographs from various sources such as Wikipedia and the web in general (which I would need to request reproduction permission for).

Within the document I discuss various historical developments based on facts as stated by other authors, e.g. ...‘Aerodrome No. 5’ flew 1,000 metres across the Potomac River, USA, on 6th May 1896.

This information is derived from reading for example the encyclopaedia Britannica and contains facts as noted by them such as dates, locations and distance.

There will also be other reproduction of publically available facts (mostly from official US military publically available web articles and e-books).

My question is as these are facts in various guises is it enough to simply reference the source material rather than seek reproduction permission. There might be a substantial amount of ‘facts’ reproduced in my own words, but they are simply facts about an aircraft.

Also for impact I may quotes short paragraphs, sentences, or parts of sentences again from either officially available web documents/e-books or physical books.

Some of this may be for example someone’s opinion on a fact such as ‘..Mr X states the XYZ plane first fired a missile in 1981, however Mrs Y states in their book it was in 1982...’ again they are stating (maybe from their first-hand knowledge or from a colleague) something is a fact (I don’t know if it’s 100% accurate).

Is a simple full reference to the source enough?

Regards, Deno

Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 2:22 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Deno,
I'm sure that in preparing your dissertation you were made aware by your university or other academic institution of the need to avoid plagiarism. This is something most seats of learning take seriously. So that basis, your dissertation should already be in a pretty good position with regard to copyright too.
You don't say where you want to publish but the fact that you mention a number of US sources leads me to think it may be the USA. If this is so, then the US law on fair use should protect you fairly well even if you have inadvertently included some minor copying (say a sentence or so) because you can argue this is a transformative use and the bare minimum of the original has been used in order to serve its new purpose.
And US law recognises the idea (fact) / experession philosophy more overtly than does UK law is also in your favour.
What Is Not Protected by Copyright?
Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:
  • • works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
    • titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
    • ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
    • works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources).
(source : US Copyright Office Circular 01(pdf))
If I am wrong and you will be publishing from the UK, then the new exception for quotation will also work in your favour, although you need to be careful to name your sources.

Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:26 pm
by Deno
AndyJ - Many thanks for such a speedy reply. I am based in the UK, however as I am thinking of it as an e-book (though I'm not too clued up on the platforms apart from Amazon which I have myself purchased from) I would hope it would be available in the UK, US and possibly internationally if that's possible. Would it be easier to stick with just being available in the UK/USA for copyright reasons? i.e. if a quote in my book was 'legal' under US/UK law (under the exceptions you mention) could it fall foul of some other country if say I allowed it to be directly purchased from non-US/UK jurisdictions where they don't have similar exemptions but the original work was registered for copyright purposes there?

e.g. (and I don't know the actual law) say hypothetically someone in New Zealand could directly purchase my book from Amazon and in New Zealand the original book was also available but they don't have a fair use / quote exemption.

Many thanks, Deno

Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:49 pm
by Deno
AndyJ - Thank you for your first reply. The US & UK laws would appear to cover what I am intending to do.

Out of interest for the US law you quote " works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)."

the bit "and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources" would this cover official publically available military documents (mainly reports available on their own websites) as they contain some tables I'd like to use after reformatting.

Many thanks, Deno


Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 9:30 pm
by AndyJ
Hi again Deno,
Although an ebook would in theory be available to buy in any country in the world (unless some form of geoblocking is applied), where it is first published usually determines a number of important factors, hence why I mentioned the US and UK. Of course if someone from, say, Brazil decided that you had infringed their copyright they would be perfectly at liberty to sue you in the Brazilian courts, but those courts would have no jurisdiction to impose a penalty on you so long as you didn't visit Brazil. However since your primary market would, initially, presumably be the English speaking countries such as the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the like, and their copyright laws are very similar to that of either the US or UK law, by conforming to UK law you should be reasonably safe.
In the USA all works produced by the US Federal or state governments is exempt from copyright protection. In the UK, the equivalent is Crown Copyright and this has some special rules. Most modern Crown Copyright information, provided it has been published, is released under a general Open Government Licence although older source material may need specific permission from the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, aka the Director of OPSI). So anything you find on either US or UK military websites should be available for you to use freely, although bear in mind that the UK OGL does require an acknowledgement of the source. Each website should explain what, if any constraints there may be.

Posted: Sat Dec 27, 2014 9:07 am
by Deno
Thank you very much. Most helpful. Gives me a lot of (good) food for thought...