Question posted yesterday: I am opening a website , an online encyclopedia for a specific engineering discipline, where the content is written by 5 of us. Our main source of information was from our textbooks which we followed during our masters. I had a informal discussion with the professor who wrote the textbook ( i think there are two other people involved too) about taking content from his work for my website for which he said "it wont be a problem if cited appropriately".
But i am kind of worried what if the site becomes successful and he sues me for taking content from his textbook as i dont have a written proof of his approval. I would like to get your expert opinion on this. What will be the consequences for such copyright infringement.
Please advise me and thank you for your help in advance.
Brief Answer: If you are copying, using or adapting content from the textbook and not merely citing information or data, you should get written consent from copyright owner. However, I suggest you get written permission from the authors if you are using substantial amounts of information from their textbook. Please read the full answer below for details.
Copyright attaches to content as expression, and not to ideas, information, or data. If you are citing information from the textbook but writing your own original content, you should practice standard citation rules of references as you would academically. I believe that is what your professor may mean. Be careful you don't plagiarize any of the text.
If you are using a lot of information from the book and most of your content, even if original, relies on the textbook, I would err on the side of caution: get all the authors to give written approval of your use of the information. An email may suffice, but if you contemplate commercial use of your product, a letter agreement would be better.
On the other hand, if you intend to lift content (see below) from the textbook and use it on your website or online encyclopedia, them you will need a license or permission from the copyright owner. In the case of textbooks, the copyright is most likely owned by the publisher. You therefore need to contact the publisher.
When I say 'lift content', I mean acts such as but not limited to: copying/reproducing text verbatim; using diagrams, illustrations, problem sets from the textbook; using photographs from the textbook; putting images of pages from the text book; and reproducing or adapting in your website any content from the textbook.
Even with the publisher's permission to reproduce or use content from the textbook, the authors generally retain their moral rights to their work. These rights extend to attribution of authors.
Please note some acts are considered as 'fair use' under US law. These acts are not considered copyright infringement. However, not all countries adhere to the same concept of fair use (see 'fair dealing' in Australia).