Are calculations copyright protected?

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Am I infringing copyright if I exactly reproduce the calculations in a paper on physics forums?
 

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  • #2
phinds
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Hm ... that's an interesting question. I'm not a lawyer, so you can't take what I say with any authority, but here's what I do know. Individual facts cannot be copyrighted. That is, if you discover that the famed Ginchy Bird, long believe to be extinct, has now been found to be alive in Upper Slobovia, and you put that in a magazine article, that fact alone is not subject to copyright.

Seems to me that a math proof is a "fact" in the same sense, so should not be subject to copyright.

The PRESENTATION of factual information, however, CAN be copyright. So, for example, if you put the fact about Ginchy Birds in a paragraph, the PARAGRAPH can be copyrighted, just not the isolated fact.

Math proofs look a bit like paragraphs, so maybe they CAN be copyrighted.

I hope you are as confused by this as much as I am and I hope that someone who actually knows what they are talking about will jump in.
 
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  • #3
UltrafastPED
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The American Mathematical Society copyrights papers which appear in their journals; I would say that the presentation of a calculation can be copyrighted, but not the calculation itself.
 
  • #4
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Imagine if Newton or Leibnitz had copyrighted their work in calculus. Then, as a student, you would have to pay them in order to learn it, in order to use it in your projects, and if you wanted to sell a machine or program that used it.
 
  • #5
rollingstein
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The American Mathematical Society copyrights papers which appear in their journals; I would say that the presentation of a calculation can be copyrighted, but not the calculation itself.
To a large extent, they can copyright what they want. The real test only arises if these things get litigated over.
 
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  • #6
AlephZero
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Imagine if Newton or Leibnitz had copyrighted their work in calculus. Then, as a student, you would have to pay them in order to learn it, in order to use it in your projects, and if you wanted to sell a machine or program that used it.
Who cares about that? The last time USA changed its copyright laws, it was to protect Disney's rights to Mickey Mouse, not geeks who want to learn physics :biggrin:

Seriously though, as others said, you can't copyright an idea. You can only copyright some form of "document" (on paper, or electronic), and it your legal rights are the same whether it's a (non-crackpot, peer reviewed) proof that Einstein was wrong, or your kid's first attempt at finger painting.

So you can re-use "ideas" taken from books or scientific papers any way you like, but you can't just photocopy pages from the original book and re-published them as "your work".

As rollingstein said, your legal rights don't mean much unless you afford to pay some expensive lawyers to defend them. But most commercial (and academic) publishers have some lawyers on their payroll already, so trying your luck against them may not be a good game plan.
 
  • #7
SteamKing
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Who cares about that? The last time USA changed its copyright laws, it was to protect Disney's rights to Mickey Mouse, not geeks who want to learn physics :biggrin:

Seriously though, as others said, you can't copyright an idea. You can only copyright some form of "document" (on paper, or electronic), and it your legal rights are the same whether it's a (non-crackpot, peer reviewed) proof that Einstein was wrong, or your kid's first attempt at finger painting.

So you can re-use "ideas" taken from books or scientific papers any way you like, but you can't just photocopy pages from the original book and re-published them as "your work".

As rollingstein said, your legal rights don't mean much unless you afford to pay some expensive lawyers to defend them. But most commercial (and academic) publishers have some lawyers on their payroll already, so trying your luck against them may not be a good game plan.
You've been livin' in the past too long. Copyright has been a hot topic not only in the US but in international legal circles for some time. Now that it is so easy to reduce almost any content (photos, music, film, printed matter) to digital form, copyright is one of the trendiest of legal fields currently.

Copyright used to be governed by national laws of various types. Now, an international copyright law, governed by the Berne Convention of 1989, is the model. And yes, the US has adopted this convention and modified its copyright laws to bring them into harmony with the convention.

Now, as to the particular matter at hand, if you use someone's calculations in your own work, at least have the decency to give the source authors credit. Giving credit may not fully immunize you from a voracious attorney, but at least by acknowledging that your work is based on the work of a third party, you have demonstrated that you are not trying to appropriate credit for the earlier work as your own.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

Whether all forms of a calculation or algorithm may be copyrighted is one question, but whether they may be patented is a question for another day and another thread.
 
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  • #8
Office_Shredder
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One form of fair use though is to quote short passages, especially for educational purposes - it seems like copying a couple lines of calculations would fall under this. Someone more familiar with this could comment.
 
  • #9
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If if such a ridiculous copyright did exist (being able to copyright a proof or a mathematical calculation) would you seriously not use it or reproduce it?

"Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once."
 
  • #10
Evo
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If if such a ridiculous copyright did exist (being able to copyright a proof or a mathematical calculation) would you seriously not use it or reproduce it?

"Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once."
The issue is PF's liability when something copyrighted is posted here. It is a serious issue and we do our best to have all posts comply with appropriate rules and laws.

So members do need to be aware of this and not be dumb about it.
 
  • #11
AlephZero
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Copyright used to be governed by national laws of various types. Now, an international copyright law, governed by the Berne Convention of 1989, is the model. And yes, the US has adopted this convention and modified its copyright laws to bring them into harmony with the convention.
Well, that depends what spin you want to put on it. It's equally true that the US did not sign the Berne convention for the first 100 years of its existence.

The 1989 Berne convention doesn't specify what are arguably the two most important practical issues: how long copyright remains in force, and what are the exceptions. Those are left to individual countries to decide. There isn't even common agreement as to when start point of the period should be. Some count from the date the document was created, other from when its creator dies (which is an interesting concept in itself, if the copyright belongs to a legal entity like a company).

But you shouldn't expect well-paid international lawyers to create some simple universal rules that terminate their own employment! :smile:

If you use a (legitimate) site that provides downloads of out-of-copyright documents, like http://imslp.org/ , you soon get into a country-dependent maze of different rules for early-20th-century material. These are not just academic issues.
 
  • #12
SteamKing
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No one ever claimed that copyright law was settled. Few areas of the law ever are. And yes, the date when the material was created or first produced has a great bearing in determining how it is treated under copyright law and how long copyright protection lasts.
 
  • #13
rollingstein
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As rollingstein said, your legal rights don't mean much unless you afford to pay some expensive lawyers to defend them. But most commercial (and academic) publishers have some lawyers on their payroll already, so trying your luck against them may not be a good game plan.
To expand on what I meant: Firms are always aggressive when writing contracts or at filing time. But in a typical case, if a filing / contract ever gets litigated before a judge, he may at the very start find large swathes unenforceable.

Ergo, it's risky to speculate from what's in a copyright claim & more realistic to base judgement on the corpus of legal decisions.
 
  • #14
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I asked the American Institute of Physics whether a calculation is copyright protected and got the following response:

Mathematical equations are not copyrightable. However, text and figures are under copyright.
 
  • #15
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My sister who is a patent attorney says no, calculations can't be copyrighted, only artistic works. However says "But as with most laws, its not entirely black and white and people can sue for no reason"
 
  • #16
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Given the "wiggle room" I hereby claim the calculations 1+2+3=6 and 1*2*3=6. Anyone who uses these calculations must pay me $6. That's USD, not Canadian.
 
  • #17
rollingstein
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Given the "wiggle room" I hereby claim the calculations 1+2+3=6 and 1*2*3=6. Anyone who uses these calculations must pay me $6. That's USD, not Canadian.
Sigh, I can't pay in USD because someone already copyrighted the conversion calculation.
 

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