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HowTo 0990: Research and copyright: The copyright problem. Read this first.


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If someone puts a Copyright notice on some information:

  • you cannot copy it without their permission; except that
  • you can copy parts of it and use it as quotes as part of an article (called "fair use").

The ideas they put forward are not copyright.

You are free to tell the same information in your own words.

Our copyright problem

Some companies have virtually no assets except their copyright holdings.

They make their money by selling access to this material.

An example in out area:

  • The online journal UroToday sells access to its articles for $280 per year.

So, if they find people are giving free access to their copyright material without permission, they take action.

And who wants to be sued? (I guess they would warn us first, and ask us to take it down, but who wants the hassle?)

The usual solution is not available to us

The first solution is usually to put the material in your own words.

That is NOT generally a good solution for us.

We are not medical specialists, backed up by a team of editors and proofreaders.

There is a real possibility we could mis-interpret, leading to readers bothering their doctors on the wrong basis.

Other solutions are detailed in the other help files in this series.


Making use of the "fair use" part of copyright.


Anything found on PubMed is in the public domain.

You can use all of it with no worries, so long as you say it is from PubMed.

Press releases

These are put out by the companies with the express wish that they are copied and published.


This solution is not to copy the information at all, but to put a link to the information in your topic.

PDF documents

Really just an extension of the link solution, PDF present two problems to us:

  1. They have technical difficulties for some people because of their size and special software needed to read them.
  2. They often contain the full text of papers that companies like UroToday sell. This makes them more valuable to the companies, and more likely to attract their attention.

One member emailing the file to another

Especially useful for large files like PDFs, this does not solve the copyright problem.

But one cancer survivor passing one file to one other cancer survivor seems less likely to attract the attention of the big companies.

I am not a lawyer.

Do NOT depend on the information on this page.

Check it yourself before taking any action.

Finally, always acknowledge where the information came from

This is:

  • Courteous
  • Useful to people who want more information.

Leaving it out is likely to offend the copyright owners.

For more help topics, click here:


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