HANZAB ought be available on the Internet.

To: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Subject: HANZAB ought be available on the Internet.
From: Denis Wilson <>
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2011 21:55:52 +1000
I thank the various members of the COG chatline for their responses - both on and off line.

I realise that HANZAB was a huge publishing venture, and yes, of course I realise that there are commercial considerations involved.

However, my hope was that by throwing my little pebble in the pond of the COG Chatline, that one day a tsunami might just reach as far away as the hallowed halls of the Board of Birds Australia. If not a tsunami, then at least a ripple, to suggest to them that they ought live up to the various promises which they have given, to at least provide a subscription servce to HANZAB.

In response to one of Philip's points, there is a difference between referring to a reference text, for research purposes, and plagiarising it. Indeed there is the concept of "Fair Use" accepted within US Copyright Law, or "Fair Dealing" (in Australian law), and which has been accepted as part of Internet practice.

In answer to several (different) suggestions about why something which some people have paid large amounts of money for ought be available free - I would like to draw the distinction between the information available in HANZAB and the physical copies. We all know books have a value which is seldom related to the intrinsic worth of the information contained therein. Book collectors know that, Booksellers make a living from that, too.
Anthony Powell expressed that nicely with his work: "Books Do Furnish a Room".

I am inviting COG members to consider the information of HANZAB as being worthy of being demanded to enter the Commons. After all, Shakespeare, Dickens, and The Bible (and vast numbers of other fine texts) are all publicly available. I do not expect (or aspire) to own an historic version of the Bible, bound in black Moroccan Leather with a gold leaf lettering on the binding. But I can freely look up the passage in the New Testament where Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple.
  • "And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves." Mark 11.15
I had forgotten about the doves.

On the COG forum, that seems as good a point as any to leave this debate.


Denis Wilson

On Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 12:12 PM, Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:

Just quickly, while it is for Birds Australia to respond, there is probably a commercial arrangement between BA as copyright holder and OUP as publisher.  A commercial reason will often be at the heart of why much information is not on the Internet.


So many questions posed on this chatline can be answered by a little research, starting with a glance into a field guide or two and then, if necessary, progressing down the usual research paths as appropriate to the particular question.


Questions about local occurrence or movements can generally be answered by reference to Steve Wilson’s book or the COG atlas, the list on the COG website, Philip’s publication, a look at an ABR or two, or a question to the long-suffering Martin, who generally finds the time for a quick response.  The chatline archive should be an early port of call.


The point about HANZAB is that it is a great dump of information gleaned from all – or nearly all – published records available at the cut-off for the relevant volume, bearing in mind that the first appeared more than 20 years ago.


HANZAB is particularly useful on questions such as behaviour and feeding.  Whether it is worth consulting depends on how much the person raising the question wants to know the answer.  For Canberra residents the volumes are available at various libraries. 



From: Denis Wilson [
Sent: Thursday, 16 June 2011 11:37 AM
To: COG bird discussions
Subject: [canberrabirds] HANZAB ought be available on the Internet.


Following a separate thread of conversation about mixed feeding flocks and the diet of Finches, Geoffrey Dabb kindly quoted some information from HANZAB. That sparked something which has troubled me for many years.

Birds Australia refuses to put HANZAB on the Internet. Is this an appropriate time for me to query why HANZAB, seemingly a truly wonderful resource, is still not availble on the Internet?

Birds Australia is entitled to regard their publication effort as worthy of aiming for "cost recovery". Fair enough.
But as their website now refers persons to a private bookshop, presumably they regard their involvement in the publication process as completed.

I come from the old school, believing that such knowledge ought be available to all, regardless of their personal financial means. I believe it is time that Birds Australia handed HANZAB over, to enter the "Commons". Such important intellectual knowledge ought be available to all - according to their interest, not according to their private "means", nor according to their access to an Institutional Library.

Surely it is time that HANZAB entered the world of the "Commons" - as a shared intellectual property. That's what the Internet would be perfect for. Surely it is time for Birds Australia to enter the Internet age?

COG once played a role in the old body, the RAOU, prior to the disastrous "corporatisation" process which resulted in the formation of Birds Australia and the separation of COG (and other regional affiliates). Does COG have any involvement in Birds Australia, these days? Can we attempt to influence them to see the merits of regarding HANZAB as part of the Commons?

Denis Wilson
"The Nature of Robertson"

Denis Wilson
"The Nature of Robertson"

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