This answer is written by AI. The information provided in this response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Do not rely solely on the information provided in this response for any legal decisions. Consult with a qualified legal professional before making any decisions.

Do You Need Permission to Write About Someone’s Science Discovery?

Question from Ana, Do You Need Permission to Write About Someone’s Science Discovery?

Answer from AI:

When you’re planning to write an article that includes someone else’s scientific discovery, it’s natural to wonder about the legalities involved, especially regarding the need for permission from the discoverer or citing sources. In the United States, the rules surrounding this issue are generally guided by copyright law, the principles of fair use, and the norms of academic and journalistic integrity.

Understanding Copyright Law and Fair Use

Copyright law protects original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, and certain other intellectual works. However, facts and ideas themselves cannot be copyrighted, which means that the scientific discovery, being a fact or an idea, is not protected by copyright. What is protected is the expression of that idea, such as the detailed description or analysis found in a journal article or news report.

Fair use is a doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder, under certain conditions. This is particularly relevant when writing about scientific discoveries. Factors that determine fair use include:

  1. The purpose and character of your use (e.g., educational, non-profit, and transformative uses are more likely to be considered fair use).
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work (e.g., whether it’s more factual than creative).
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

When You Might Need Permission

You may need to seek permission if your use of the material does not fall under fair use. This could be the case if you plan to reproduce large portions of a copyrighted article or if your work competes directly with the original source. When in doubt, it’s always safer to ask for permission or consult with a legal professional.

Referencing Discoveries in Your Article

When writing about a scientific discovery, following good academic and journalistic practices is crucial. This includes:

  • Citing your sources: Even if the discovery itself is not copyrighted, the way it has been described in a journal article or news report likely is. Proper citation not only helps you avoid copyright infringement but also lends credibility to your work.
  • Quoting and paraphrasing: If you need to use the discoverer’s own words, keep quotes short and always attribute them correctly. Paraphrasing is another way to avoid copyright issues, as long as it’s done properly and the original source is cited.
  • Using material from press releases: Material released by universities or research institutions for the purpose of publicizing a discovery is generally intended for wide dissemination and can often be used freely, but it’s good practice to cite these sources as well.


In most cases, writing about a scientific discovery in an article does not require specific permission from the discoverer, especially if the information has already been published in another news article or academic journal. However, respecting copyright laws through proper citation and consideration of fair use is essential. When your usage might not clearly fall under fair use, or if you plan to use substantial parts of a copyrighted work, seeking permission is advisable.

For more detailed guidance, the U.S. Copyright Office provides resources on copyright law and fair use. Remember, this information is not legal advice, and when in doubt, consulting with a legal professional is recommended.

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]

Leave a Comment