Re: Science 4 September on Copyright

From: Henry Rzepa <h.rzepa_at_IC.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 11:00:39 -0400

The preceding discussions on copyright focus on the respective
rights of authors and publishers, but I suspect are largely focused
on what one could regard as the traditional models of publishing.

I would like to focus on how the concept of copyright might be
interpreted for one quite new publishing objects; what
I refer to as the "model". As a chemist, I strongly believe that
we have in the past been limited by the media of text augmented
by what we might describe as "illustrations". The internet has
introduced a new metaphor; the "model". For example, if a chemist
wishes to describe new ideas originating from a molecule, they
might wish to add a "model" of that model to their description.
The model will contain a semantic model (i.e. this model is going
to contain symbols of atoms and bonds) along with numeric data describing
that model. It could be expressed using older legacy formats,
or newer more structured ones such as XML/CML (see )
This ia ALL that is delivered to the reader. At this point,
its the reader that can choose how to interpret this model. They
may wish to define the program or plug-in, or in general resource
that will render the model on their screen. They have the option of
defining the appropriate style (sheet) to apply; a chemist has many
ways of visualising a molecular model, ie ball and stick, spacefill,
ribbon, etc etc etc.

As an author, I have in several recent papers, strongly resisted
any attempts to get me to sign over any copyright for my electronic
models (and all rights to redistribute them in any form in all
future derived works). In any case, I am not sure what of my models
actually could be copyrighted; certainly not the data, although perhaps
the semantics. Sometimes models can have "actions" associated with
them that are defined by algorithms, or even quite complex code. I
certainly do not want to reassign copyright on that! Furthermore, because
the models are in effect extensible, one could envisage others adding
value to them, re-using them in different contexts etc. That of course
is the entire point of making them available. If the copyright on the
model were to be owned eg by the publisher, one can imagine problems
arising out of such application.

Finally of course, in creating a screen model from data, but using
styles selected by them, readers of the "model" could argue they
have just a strong case as the author or publisher.

It seems to me that much of the discussion on copyright
manages to avoid dealing with any of the above issues.

For examples of compound models, see

A rather more topical model is at
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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