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    Re: Computer generated Almanac
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2003 Sep 9, 09:49 +0100

    Jared Sherman asked, about the Nautical Almanac,
    > Do Her Majesty's almanac tables differ from the USNO versions?
    I think not, except perhaps for the cover and some title-paging, where it
    might say USNO instead of HMNAO.
    Gordon Talge has shown thast the copyright declaration is exactly the same
    in both editions.
    After quoting the second part of the copyright declaration-
    >The following United States government work is excepted from the above
    >notice, and no copyright is claimed for it in the United States:
    >cover, title page and reverse, Preface, pages 6 and 7, pages 286 to 315.
    He concluded-
    >So it looks like the U.S. version of the NA is not copyrighted.
    >Not being a lawyer I am not sure how this works out.
    Here Gordon seems to have misled himself. That exception, exactly as it
    says, applies only to those specific pages, presumably because those pages
    (mainly, the sight-reduction tables) are the contribution of the US
    Government. Every bit of the rest of the Almanac is subject to the
    preceding international-copyright declaration, to US citizens as to
    everyone else, being the work of a UK Government agency which claims its
    I do not defend that situation. It seems to me that any govenment claiming
    to be "of the people, for the people, and by the people" (and most aspire
    to that aim, if few attain it) should do its utmost to make its information
    as accessible as possible. In that respect, I think the US Government has
    it about right. UK agencies are constrained by a duty to make a surplus, or
    at least break even; they can, and do, claim copyright. That causes some
    real problems, for example in weather forecasting, where only the
    most-basic information is made publicly available. If you want more, you
    have to pay for it, or get access to the predictions of our European
    Jared Sherman says-
    >However, since federal publications in the US have a copyright belonging
    >to the people of >the United States, I suspect that *I* can copy a US
    >publication, but it would be illegal >for you to do so.
    I agree that that's the case, where the US government decides not to claim
    copyright, but the NA is in a special category because most of it is
    sourced outside the US, as the copyright declaration states.
    Whether copyright might apply to the layout and design of the almanac
    tables is another matter. Jared thinks not, and he may well be wiser than
    me. The three-days-to-a-page layout, with common-blocks inset at the foot,
    is to my mind a masterpiece of compression and fitting-in. And clarity too,
    I should add. If I had been involved in developing it (it's evolved, over
    many years) I would feel my toes were being severely trodden-on if someone
    else copied that complex layout in every detail, typeface and all, even if
    the numbers were derived elsewhere. Whether it would be grounds for a
    breach-of-copyright claim: well no doubt Jared would know better than me.
    The closest parallel I can think of is in the war over the graphical
    computer interface between Apple and Microsoft Windows. These effectively
    did the same job for the user, though the internal processing may have
    differed greatly. In the end, the argument hinged on the "look and feel" to
    the user, and Gates was able to get his way by showing (rather dubiously in
    my view) that the "look and feel" were sufficiently different.
    Anyway, all this is rather hypothetical. I pointed out the copyright claim
    only because Johan Linner said he couldn't find one in his copy.
    Anyone providing an online almanac would, I suggest, be ill-advised to
    recalculate, slavishly, all the detailed information in the NA. He would do
    better to use the interactive nature of the web to discover in which
    part-of-the-world it was intended to be used, and for what period; then
    download just a subset, only those bodies that would be usefully visible
    there over that period. The NA is laid out as it is, because it has to be
    all things to all seamen.
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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