If I was engaging in a for-profit activity (writing a book that will be sold or starting a monetized blog, for example) that required the use of many scientific facts, how would I go about collecting that information in a way so as to avoid a copyright issue?

To illustrate, suppose I was starting a blog on jewelry making and I needed to add informative descriptions on the various types of precious metals/gems a novice jeweler can use (like the various types of topaz that exist and their properties, etc). Where would I obtain such information without infringing on a copyright? From the little I know about U.S. copyright law, I can't just copy information straight from an encyclopedia and then place my resultant work for sale. Wikipedia IS open, but requires anyone using it to make their work open as well, if I'm correct.

Are there any free and open sources I can quote without having to make my content be under an open license (perhaps like from a college or the government)? If not, would it violate copyright to use information from an encyclopedia on my blog if the information was completely re-written using my own words?


1 Answer 1

  1. There is no copyright in facts. If your book is about the solar system say, then the diameter of Jupiter, the orbital period of Mars and the mass of the Sun are not things that are subject to copyright. However, the creative expression of facts (i.e. like an encyclopedia) is protected by copyright - you cannot copy the layout, format font etc. but you can extract the facts and express them in your own way.

  2. Some organisations (e.g. the US Government) expressly renounce copyright claims in their works. For example, anything created by the CIA in the CIA World Factbook is available for anyone to use subject to one important caveat: if the CIA is using other people's copyright materials you must have their permission to use that bit.

  3. Copyright expires (but it takes a long time): anything with expired copyright is in the public domain and free to use.

  4. You can get permission (a license) to use the work.

  5. You can rely on a fair use (US) or fair dealing (Commonwealth) defense. It is possible (Likely?) that what you are doing constitutes research or study, these are permitted uses under both doctrines.

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