A personal statement concerning the use of my name

To: Robert Inglis <>
Subject: A personal statement concerning the use of my name
From: Russell Woodford <>
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2010 19:05:47 +1000
Hi Bob

Thanks for posting your comments. I feel I should reply to you and to the list members about this.

The matter of copyright and intellectual property is a complex one, and whilst I have studied some aspects of it I am neither an expert nor a law student.

As far as I understand it, material posted to Birding-Aus is NOT in the public domain. Just because it has been published does NOT make it so. Yes, it has been PUBLISHED, but the words and expressions are still the intellectual property of the AUTHOR. As Laurie Knight has pointed out earlier today, if anyone wants to cite someone else's comments, that is fine, but the accepted protocol is to use quotation marks for direct quotation, and at least acknowledge the source whether using the author's own words or not (Laurie Knight, 2010, 19 June) - yes, just like that. I've put the full reference at the bottom of this post - I'm in the habit of doing that because I'm a suffering uni student once more.

In academic terms, failing to acknowledge the source properly is called plagiarism. It is called the same thing in the publishing world, and because putting something onto the web is a form of publishing, I think that failing to acknowledge a source is definitely plagiarism. So, anyone is free to make reference to information in a Birding-aus posting, but the source SHOULD be properly acknowledged. There are lots of ways of doing that, but as Laurie points out, using the archive is probably the simplest, because it is a permanent record (as permanent as web-based things go, I guess). The archive URL (Internet "address") is referred to as a "permalink" and is unique for every message.

Once someone has posted a comment, it is public, or published, and can then be cited and referred to - one of the reasons why we all need to be careful about any comments made about other people or organisations. But the words in the comment, and any data or information posted with it, are still the intellectual property of the author. Anyone can then refer to that posting, and as long as they acknowledge the source, there is no need to seek the author's permission, no more than we would seek Tim Dolby's permission to quote from his outstanding guide, "Where to See Birds in Victoria" (Dolby et al., 2009). In practice, we don't need to use academic referencing when referring to another member's posting because we can include the original in our reply.

Images posted online are an even more complex area. Many people are under the impression that an image published on a "public" page, such as a blog or Google Group, or Flickr, is freely available for anyone else to use. It is NOT. The Creative Commons Licensing system is one way that authors / photographers and so on give permission for LIMITED use of their material, and anyone who is interested in how this works should read about how organisations such as Flickr implement it. But unless an author / photographer specifically assigns a CCL to a "work" then it CANNOT be used by a third party. Of course, legislation is always playing catch-up with technology, and most of us have copied an image from a website for one use or another, because it is easy to do it. The fact that we have broken the law by copying several bird photos to our computer to study ID features probably doesn't bother the copyright owner - but of course re-publishing them is another matter entirely. Providing a weblink to someone else's image is usually considered acceptable, as long as it is clear who the owner is. Embedding someone else's image in your own web page by using scripts or hyperlinks is certainly not acceptable.

So in summary:
When you post a message to birding-aus you are publishing your comments
Your comments are your own intellectual property
Anyone who repeats or refers to your comments outside Birding-Aus should acknowledge their source If you post an image or map it can be linked to from another site, but not embedded in someone else's site

Well, that's a lot longer than tuppence worth, but there it is.


Russell Woodford
Birding-Aus List Owner

Geelong   Victoria   Australia


Dolby, T., Johns, P, & Symonds, S. (Editors) (2009). Where to see birds in Victoria. Crows Nest, N.S.W. : Jacana Books.

Knight, L. (2010, June 19). The netiquette of pointing to websites. Message posted to the Birding-Aus mailing list. Retrieved on 19 June 2010 from


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