‘Text’-book ?

I am no longer on a campus and won’t do the evangelism task of OpenEdMOOC week 3. However, I will at least think about what would be the most urgent cases to address.

There is a wide range of cases for open access, from the one extreme where a publisher just steps in between author and readers and demands money for no service, right through to cases where a large work is assembled through the coordination of many authors including perpetual improvements and enhancements. Textbooks often fall into the latter category, and they are explicitly excluded from the barrier regulations limiting copyright in favor of science and education in Germany.

An important occasion to copy from a textbook is when it contains a great instructional graphic. (Despite the English term ‘text’-book suggests that the text is more important; but in German it is called the equivalent of ‘teach-book’.)

From J. M. Flagg’s famous Uncle Sam poster, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.50554/

An image says more than 1000 words, and the careful selection of what to show and how to highlight the salient features, is certainly a great intellectual merit. Which deserves credit. But what is protected by copyright is not this idea (at least over here) but merely the ‘work’.

So, what if we take the idea for the picture and draw a new picture, modelled after the antetype of the given one? (Of course not just by following all contours through a sandwich paper or foil.) And then attribute the creator of the original image? According to my legal understanding (which is, of course, not professional) this should comply with the requirements that the work is commercially protected while the idea needs scholarly attribution and credit.

But it is not easy to do such drawings. I tried to redraw some outline of J. M. Flagg’s famous Uncle Sam picture, and miserably failed. (On this occasion I learned that also Flaggs copied the idea from a British precursor).

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