1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Some concrete issues concerning abstracts

Not so scientific -- abstract
work by Paul Klee
In the United Kingdom the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, section 60(1) states:
"Where an article on a scientific or technical subject is published in a periodical accompanied by an abstract indicating the contents of the article, it is not an infringement of copyright in the abstract, or in the article, to copy the abstract or issue copies of it to the public".
This is echoed in a somewhat different form by the Irish Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, section 90 of which states:
"Where an article on a scientific or technical subject is lawfully made available to the public in a periodical accompanied by an abstract indicating the contents of the article, it is not an infringement of the copyright in the abstract or in the article to copy the abstract or to make available to the public copies of the abstract or to include the abstract in any other work".
I was wondering whether the availability of scientific and technical abstracts emerged from as an idea: I don't recall seeing it as a defence or an exception under the Berne and Universal Copyright Conventions, and it's not in the US Title 17 or the EU Directives. Nor, despite its obvious value to the patenting community, is it mentioned in the Paris Convention or the Patent Law Treaty.

Three quick questions: (i) do any other countries make specific provision for the unauthorised use of abstracts in this way? (ii) in the absence of such a provision, is it even an infringement to do the specified acts, or could we argue that there is a presumed implied licence to use an abstract for this purpose, by virtue of its very existence and function; (iii) do we even care -- or are people actually litigating over abstracts?

4 comments:

Peter Groves said...

Section 60 was a late addition, in Standing Committee - at whose initiative, I don't know, though I could find out. Th opposition criticised its breadth, and questioned whether it might contravene the Berne Convention: but I don't believe it has caused any controversy since it became law.

Professor Charles Oppenheim said...

This was a last minute change to the then Copyright Bill
brought about by lobbying from INSPEC (part of the UK Institute of
Electrical Engineers, as it then was, who publish abstracts in the
fields of physics, electrical & electronic engineering, and computers as commercial services). Although some publishers (notably Elsevier) have grumbled about it, to my knowledge there has been no serious challenge to that Clause, not indeed any effort to set up a licensing scheme to handle the licensing of so-called author abstracts. And I am not aware of any litigation relating to that clause.

William Earley said...

the Irish 1999 Bill (later the 2000 Act) included the section quoted by Jeremy (section 91, in fact) from its inception - doubtless informed by the UK legislation and the lobbying described by Prof. Oppenheim. There was little or no discussion of the section in the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) and I have never heard of any litigation on the subject here in Ireland.

William Earley said...

Apologies, Jeremy, 'forgot about the repeal of of section 69 - section 90 it is!