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Re: Copyright of calcs

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Actually, I have consulted an Intellectual Property lawyer in regards to
protecting engineering projects.  I say again, code-related calculations are NOT
under copyright.  If the calculations are driving by a set of codes or standards
that are published (let alone required), be it building codes or vessel codes or
nuclear codes, and are part of "standard practice of the art," they are NOT
subject to copyright protection.  I have no confusion on this matter.  Your end
product, such as the drawings, are subject to copyright protection.  If you are
using non-standard procedures (not part of a published code or standard), there
is some posibility for copyright protection.  However, the nature of
calculations and the standard practices of our profession is that we are free to
look at other's calculations (in textbooks, articles, or the work of others) and
use it as our judgement sees fit.  For example, if you find calculations in a
book, you assume you can use it in your practice.  If calculations WERE
copyright protected, you couldn't "lift" them from a book and use it anymore
than you could lift a photo or chapter and use it as "yours."  I say again, you
would have to maintain the procedures as "a trade secret" or earn a patent for a
new algorithm, since the foundation of the vast majority of our work is
published and open to anyone else to use.

I completely understand the desire to copyright calculations, but like another
engineer who posted on this list, I found out usless the work is a truly
original applicaion of the art (new product, process, system, etc.)  it is not
subject to copyright protection.  Code-driven design (buildings, vessels, etc.)
are considered reproducable by a similarly qualified practioner in the art and
another engineer is EXPECTED to be able to execute the same calculations.
Conversely, I could give you or anyone else a word processor and NOT expect you
to turn out a Stephen King novel...and if you did turn in a book "substantially
similar" to one, it is likely to be considered plagerism.  Engineers DO turn in
"substantially similar" work within a given field when presented with, for
example, the same architect's plans for the same local requirements.   I
understand the arguement the entire set of calculations is "original", but
engineers didn't write the law.  The originality lies in the executed product,
in this case, the drawings.  At least, that's how the law looks at it.  There is
recourse for someone taking your entire set of calculations and presenting it as
their own, but it can be difficult to fight.   Similarly, the calculations going
into an item being patented are typically not subject to copyright protection
(and should be kept as a trade secret.)

Trademarks have nothing to do with this discussion, nor does patents, since that
involves specific registration issues whereas copyright is conferred at the
moment of creation (although it does help to go through the steps to register it
with the copyright office, but it is NOT neccesary to establish intellectual
property rights.)

Bart Kemper, P.E.

Bill Allen wrote:

> Bart-
> Although not an expert on the subject (nor any other for that matter), I
> believe you are mistaken about copyright protection on calculations. No, you
> cannot copyright Mc/I, but (almost) every building is unique and a prototype
> and, as a collection, the set of calculations CAN be copyrighted and
> therefore protected. Further, if you believe drawings can be copyrighted,
> the calculations should be as well for the same reason. Maybe you are
> confusing trademark or patent laws for the copyright laws. I dunno. If you
> are still confused, maybe you should consult with a copyright atty.
> Regards,
> Bill Allen, S.E. (CA #2607)
> Laguna Niguel, CA
> |

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