Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

Copyright of calcs

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
::Switching hats from Engineer to Writer/Photographer and Intellectual
Property student::

You cannot copyright calculations unless you are offering a new
mathmatical theorum or some such original work.  This is ESPECIALLY true
of calculations based on published codes and standards.  Hate to say it,
but from a strictly "original work" perspective, this does NOT meet the criteria.

THANK GOD!  Because, if this wasn't the case, the first person to
register structural calculations could sue anyone doing a substantially
similar structure under substantially similar conditions for copyright
infringement.  The first person to do an ASME coded vessel would have
all the rights.  You could also be nailed for using a calculation
procedure out of a textbook, since you are copying someone else's
published work.  Copyright was never meant for engineering caculations. 
Copyright is meant to protect the creation of "original work", such as
photos, artwork, writing, sculpture, etc.  

DRAWINGS can by copyrighted, but not the math behind it.  The math
behind it goes towards establishing it was your original work, just as
the notes a writer uses goes to show there was original work involved
and not plagerism.  If someone saw your drawings, then sat down and did
all of the work required to develop the drawings, then he could produce
substantially similar drawings and be free and clear.  Isn't this what
we do, anyway?  

You *CAN* consider the math a "trade secret", such as the calcs that
went into the building the SR-71 (which was later destroyed).  People
with processes, products, or other such things do this routinely. 
However, if a structural engineer tried to tell me that for a commercial
structure I paid him for, ESPECIALLY since a copy goes to a gov't body,
I'd be highly suspicious.  

If someone else uses a P.E.'s calculations, the liability is NOT against
the engineer.  It is understood, from a legal standpoint, we are Design
Professionals and our judgement is woven throughout our work product. 
It's not just a question of the calculations, it which calcs we chose to
use, with which variables and assumptions, etc.  You do not have to
state (nor would I) the assumptions made, table lookup chosen, variables
set, etc....just give the final set of calculations as required by a
given code.  Push comes to shove, if this mythical evil contractor who
is out to steal your work wanted to, he could go by a set software or
books and do it anyway.  How much does an engineer do that cannot be
researched?  The trick is...if you did enough research and study to do
our job, you'd end up having to go through engineering school and become
an engineer, anyway.  A contractor is not likely to steal your
work...its another engineer.  If another engineer uses your
calculations, then the liability goes to THAT engineer since he must
then use HIS engineering judgement....and ultimately, that's what we're
paid for, our judgement and experience, not the ability to push numbers around.

Bart Kemper, P.E. (and published writer, photographer, artist, etc.)
©Bart Kemper, 2000

******* ****** ******* ******** ******* ******* ******* *** 
*   Read list FAQ at: 
*   This email was sent to you via Structural Engineers 
*   Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) server. To 
*   subscribe (no fee) to the list, send email to 
*   admin(--nospam--at) and in the body of the message type 
*   "join seaint" (no quotes). To Unsubscribe, send email 
*   to admin(--nospam--at) and in the body of the message 
*   type "leave seaint" (no quotes). For questions, send 
*   email to seaint-ad(--nospam--at) Remember, any email you 
*   send to the list is public domain and may be re-posted 
*   without your permission. Make sure you visit our web 
*   site at: 
******* ****** ****** ****** ******* ****** ****** ********