by C. Lee CampbellApril 1998, Phytopathology News
A revolution is occurring in the realm of visual aids for scientific presentations. Glass lantern slides have been a thing of the past for many years. Films have largely been replaced by videotapes and, in the near future, videotapes will be "old technology," having been replaced by digital video disks (DVD). Collections of 2-by-2 color slides are moving from large, cumbersome storage cabinets to a fully searchable, digital residence on computer disks. Film in cameras is being replaced by floppy disks. And many seminars and paper presentations are no longer made using those paper-or plastic-mounted slides that sometimes end up embarrassingly backwards or upside down in slide carrousels. Video projectors connected directly to microcomputers do the job better and more efficiently and the images are always right-side up! The scientific presentations of tomorrow are possible today and are changing our concept of oral and poster presentations at scientific meetings-but that is a topic for another time.
The technology that gives us the Image of the Week on the opening page of APSnet (http://www.scisoc.org) and the on-line, APS "slide set" of sugar cane diseases also gives us pause to consider new dimensions regarding issues of intellectual property rights and copyrights. Electronic harvesting and repackaging of large number of images for monetary profit is well within the capabilities of technology. However, legal and ethical questions of who may use, distribute and profit from such images that are the property of an individual or an organization must be addressed.
When members submit images they have taken of healthy plants, plant diseases or plant pathogens for use in an APS Press educational product, for publication in APS books or in one of our professional journals, they are asked to sign a copyright transfer form. After signing this form contributors do not relinquish their rights to continue to use their own images (slides) without charge in their own publications and work. This is stated explicitly on the copyright form that APS uses. However, the copyright does then belong to APS. What this means is that anyone other than the original contributor must request permission from APS to distribute the image in non-APS publications.
There are several benefits that accrue with APS copyrights on images. First, copyrighted images are protected from unscrupulous individuals copying slides, on-line images or photographs from APS publications. This will become more and more important as images continue to appear in digital form for on-line slide sets, Image of the Week on APSnet and in other electronic publications. Second, APS can act as a clearinghouse for individuals seeking permission to use images copyrighted by APS for other publications, outreach projects and educational projects. If APS holds the copyright on a collection of images, it is not necessary to obtain permission from each contributor. This simplifies the legal sharing of images among APS members as we convey the stories of plant pathology to students, growers, homeowners and other interested individuals. Finally, APS is serving members by providing a centralized collection of images related to plant pathology. With such a collection and the innovative ideas of members, APS is able to repurpose images into additional APS publications to benefit a wide range of audiences. External to APS, requests for the use of a limited number of images for noncommercial purposes are typically granted without charge. For permission to use a large number of images or to use images for commercial purposes, APS does require payment of a fee, because the image collection is a financial asset of the society's members.
As technology continues to provide us with outstanding opportunities to convey to the public, to growers and to policy makers the many and varied aspects of plant pathology and plant disease management, APS is providing updated services and opportunities for members around the world. With the dawn of the digital age for the capture, storage and transmission of images as well as text, the ways in which we safeguard information and images are being reexamined to ensure that the rights of individuals are protected and that scientific information can still be disseminated in a fair and equitable way. APS copyrights are in no way intended to limit how an original contributor can use images in his or her own publications or work but rather are a part of the protection of individual rights and a way of guaranteeing the fair and equitable use of the resources contributed by APS members for the benefit of our profession.