An E-Sylum reader forwarded this interesting conundrum that might sound familiar to numismatic researchers.
A friend asked me about a subject that I have never had to consider in the past. Many years ago, numismatist #1 wrote a small book about the die varieties of one particular coin. A few years ago, numismatist #2 took #1's book, copied it and added many more varieties for this one particular coin in a second book. I do not know if #2 acknowledged #1's work in his book.
My friend wants to write a third reference about this particular coin and add even more die varieties. Neither #1 or #2 copyrighted their books.
My friend wants to know if he there is any illegal about copying the information from the #1 and #2 books and adding it to his book and copyrighting his book? And he wants to know how he should acknowledge the work of #1 and #2?
I (half) jokingly replied that if it weren't for authors copying other authors we'd only have a dozen or so numismatic books. But seriously, most numismatic works build on the previous work of others, and there's nothing wrong with that. But it can get tricky, as with the situation described above.
If one of the authors created a numbering scheme that author #3 would like to use, then permission should be sought. The same goes for photographs – if author #3 expects to use photos from the earlier books, he would need permission for that. But a book with all new photos and text is probably fine, even if it closely mimics the arrangement of the earlier books.
It's a good question that hopefully has a solution that enables author #3 to publish. What are your thoughts, readers?
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