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Copyright traps

  • 25 November 2006
  • From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
  • John Lackie, Aspatria, Cumbria, UK
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I read with interest your recent article on copyright traps (21 October, p 62). Some years ago my colleague, Julian Dow and I put the second edition of our Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology onto the web as a resource for bioscientists. We had more than one-third of a million hits on the site, and by logging the abortive searches we knew how to choose the new headwords for the third edition. Interestingly, the hard copy (published by Academic Press) continued to sell.

Recently, preparing the fourth edition (which will be published by Elsevier next year), again using the abortive searches list, I've come across several examples of our dictionary entries being copied verbatim and without acknowledgement into other on-line dictionaries. Included amongst these was one that was a copyright trap, exactly as you describe, and it brought a wry smile. It illustrates nicely how misinformation can propagate, though this particular trap is sprung in the new edition. Sadly, we could do nothing for those unable to spell - and I've collected more than 50 recognisable attempts to spell "mitochondrion" so far!

From issue 2579 of New Scientist magazine, 25 November 2006, page 23
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