Wed, Dec 10, 2008


Public domain boundaries

The Copyright law does not protect facts. Facts contained in works such as new stories, histories, biographies and scientific treatises are in public domain, free for use by all. However what is protected is the original expression of facts contained in such works. Let’s understand this with the help of the following example:

Research Facts

Sue spends several weeks researching the carbon emissions in USA. She scours the archives of climate-change tracking agencies and interviews environmental activists. Her research enables her to write and publish a 500-page report describing the fine details of factors contributing carbon emissions in the country. The report contains many previously unknown facts and ends with a startling new interpretation of facts.

Elements of research work that cannot be Copyright protected:

1. The facts that Sue discovers through her research are in public domain. The Copyright law does not protect the results of research irrespective of the efforts involved. So the previously unknown facts about carbon emissions that Sue discovered are in public domain.
2. Sue included quotations from media reports about the criticism of USA for high levels of carbon emissions. Sue sought permission from the respective agencies to use the quotations.
3. An interpretation of fact (deduced from other facts) is itself a fact. Sue’s interpretations of her findings are not protected by the law.

Elements of research work protected by Copyright:

1. Sue’s expression of facts in the report if copied verbatim would infringe on her copyright.
2. The selection and arrangement of facts through research itself is a fact.

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