American Medical Association Claims False Copyright Over President Obama's Journal Article

from the that's-not-how-it-works,-ama dept

You may have heard that earlier this week President Obama published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) entitled: United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps. It follows typical medical journal format and has lots of charts and figures. A number of people remarked that this must be a first for how the “Author Affiliations” were listed:

Whatever you might think of the President’s health care policy, you should absolutely appreciate the willingness to publish data and details like this — and to make it freely available online. But there’s something that’s still problematic here. And it has a lot more to do with the American Medical Association than the President. And it’s that — in typically idiotic closed access medical journal fashion — JAMA is claiming the copyright on the article. There’s a copyright permissions link in the righthand column, and if you click on it, you get taken to a page on, a site run by the Copyright Clearance Center, claiming that the copyright for this document is held by the American Medical Association:

And if you click to download the PDF version of the article, which I’ve embedded below on the bottom of every page, it claims that the document is covered by a copyright held by the American Medical Association.

To put it simply: this is bullshit. Section 105 of US copyright law makes it quite explicit that “any work of the United States Government” cannot be covered by copyright. When the President writes a journal article (and he’s listed as the sole author), the document is automatically in the public domain and not subject to copyright. I recognize that, since the AMA obnoxiously wants to claim and take every copyright from every one of its authors, it might not be set up to handle publishing a document in the public domain, but it should figure out how to make an exception, because what it’s doing right now is outright copyfraud, claiming copyright on something it does not have the rights to.

And some people have noticed. Professor Michael Eisen, from UC Berkeley and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has sent a letter to the President asking him to ask JAMA to correct this error:

If you can’t read it, the key section reads:

I would like to bring to your attention an issue that you, as both a constitutional lawyer and President sworn to uphold the laws of the United States, will, I hope, find of interest. As you are undoubtedly aware, US copyright law (specifically section 105) states that copyright protection is not available to works of the federal government. I believe that we can safely assume that a work penned by you as part of your official duties as President is subject to this provision. Nonetheless, the official electronic copy of your article (attached) bears the statement “Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All rights reserved” on every page in clear violation of coypyright law.

I would like to humbly request that you demand on behalf of citizens of the United States that JAMA remove this illegal copyright claim from your paper. Furthermore, I hope that you can use the opportunity afforded by this incident to shed light [on] the broader issue of scientific journals illegally claiming copyright in thousands of other works of the US government every year, thereby restricting access to and use of these works which by law belong in the public domain.

Hopefully something happens.

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Comments on “American Medical Association Claims False Copyright Over President Obama's Journal Article”

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I.T. Guy says:

Re: Re:

“I would dispute your claim that everything created by the President while in office is in the public domain.”

Um… I didnt read that at all. Was it edited?
Who claimed “everything?”

“Section 105 of US copyright law makes it quite explicit that “any work of the United States Government” cannot be covered by copyright. When the President writes a journal article (and he’s listed as the sole author), the document is automatically in the public domain and not subject to copyright.”

I don’t think “everything” was implied here.

Anonymous Coward says:

A bit over the top...

From the JAMA “Instructions for Authors” page…

Publishing Agreement

All authors are required to complete and submit a Publishing Agreement that is part of the JAMA electronic Authorship Form. In this agreement, authors will transfer copyright; or indicate that they are employed by a federal government; or indicate that they are an employee of an institution that considers the work in the manuscript a work for hire, in which case an authorized representative of that institution will assign copyright on the author’s behalf.

JAMA itself should correct this fairly soon. It can hardly be said that the President is NOT a Federal Government employee.

Anonymous Coward says:

ha ha ha...

I would like to bring to your attention an issue that you, as both a constitutional lawyer and President sworn to uphold the laws of the United States, will, I hope, find of interest.

Seriously… Obama is a con man. The words constitutional Scholar applies to him as much as Dr should apply to Dr Phil. We don’t even have to bring up how much he as decided to NOT uphold any laws either. He wants to break them down.

The AMA is in no danger and your pleas fall up on deaf ears!

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

sworn to uphold the laws ?!

oath (according to Wikipedia):

I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God

The president does not swear to uphold the laws, only to uphold the constitution.
When the laws clash with the constitution, the constitution should win out.
(Yes, we’ve seen what happens to the constitution rights of citizens when he/she does not over the last 16 years.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sworn to uphold the laws ?!

The president does not swear to uphold the laws, only to uphold the constitution.

WTF is wrong with your logic.

Upholding the Constitution DIRECTLY MEANS UPHOLDING THE LAWS!!! One and the same you fucking tool! The Constitution clearly defines the Powers and Responsibility of the Executive Branch, just like all of the others.

So let us say it together… when Obama decides to not uphold the law, he also decides to not uphold the Constitution!

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

Obama mass importing foreigners in contravention of the Current US immigration law clearly indicates that very well that he is DENYING his responsibility to Guarantee and Protection against Invasion. He is also refusing to protect of against the inevitable domestic violence that is guaranteed to result from these actions.

Not only is Obama just derelict in his duties, he has committed TREASON! Some of the people being imported wish to murder us and see that we are destroyed which makes them Enemies and Obama is giving direct aid and comfort to them! No wise man could ever make the mistake of using benevolence as an excuse to allow murder in by the front door. Obama’s responsibility is to America First, the nation he SWORE to serve, not the People of the world!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: sworn to uphold the laws ?!

“Upholding the Constitution DIRECTLY MEANS UPHOLDING THE LAWS!!!”

Unless the law is unconstitutional.

“Not only is Obama just derelict in his duties, he has committed TREASON!”

The Constitution itself very specifically defines what constitutes “treason”. Even if we, for the sake of argument, say that everything that Obama has been seriously accused of is true, none of that rises to Constitutional definition of treason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: sworn to uphold the laws ?!

Unless the law is unconstitutional.

I do agree with that, however can you tell me which laws Obama has opposed that are Unconstitutional? He seems to only advance laws that are unconstitutional or fight laws that are constitutional.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

Pay Attention to the Bold!
Yes, Obama has, in fact, satisfied the definition. He has imported more than enough enemies of the US into its borders and has set them free to the point where there is no mistake. More than enough that he cannot reasonably claim ignorance himself. He continues to do this still, and more than two people in the US knows this. But I am sure Obama is not even remotely dumb enough to admit this in court despite the proof being so in your face it’s like the fucking Emperor’s new Clothes.

And it is grossly immature to only consider members of recognized foreign military as the only “enemy” that qualifies under this definition. Any agent that seeks to harm America and is not a Citizen is an Enemy. Obama’s desire to set multiple murderers and other assorted criminals free inside our borders is more than enough to quality for that definition.

We have long given far too much of a pass to our elected officials in regards to their staggering levels of corruption. It is so bad that fucking idiots like Obama, Hillary and Trump can make it into office!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 sworn to uphold the laws ?!

“Yes, Obama has, in fact, satisfied the definition.”

Then please point out where he has done that. What you said in your comments doesn’t even come close.

“Adhering to the enemies” and “providing aid and comfort” mean very, very specific things — to generalize a bit, it means acting as if you are a member of the enemy’s military effort.

Clearly, you strongly disagree with Obama’s actions in certain areas and feel they are actively in opposition to the interests of the US. Fair enough.

But you’re making a legal accusation here, and so you’re going by the rules and definitions of the actual law, including the Constitution. And from a legal point of view, you’re simply incorrect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 sworn to uphold the laws ?!

The Border situation is more than enough, not to mention his assault on the 2nd Amendment which is designed to ensure that Americans may defend themselves. Any attempt by any leader anywhere to disarm citizens should only ever be held as an act of Treason!

If you are intellectually dishonest enough to give anyone a pass on this then there is no reason to continue any discourse. You are clearly not cognitively functional enough to recognize Treason when it is occurring.

Reagan should have been brought up on the same charges as well. No President has the power to create EO to affect this much change in the Nation with immigration. They only got by with it because Congress is full of cowards that refuse to their jobs! It is a fucking disaster to import masses of people that do not even fundamentally understand the concept of liberty. We are treating illegals better than the territories we refuse to grant state hood to!

Because of people like you, we are going to follow the terrible prophecy George Washington told us about and quote…

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

We cannot afford to allow this to happen, and we should swiftly & concisely strike hard when a president of any party does what our recent presidents have done! We have been so used to the corruption and treachery that we no longer recognize them for what they are any more!

If you grow up with murder around you all your life then you think nothing of taking a life yourself when it serves you, likewise the American people having grown up with corruption around us 100% of the time we no longer think nothing of it and even expect it to the point where we even believe it cannot be stopped!

There is a hard wedge being driven into the country and people like you help drive it by ignoring the problem or excusing it with meaningless drivel like… “you just don’t like his policies fine!!!”

I have not like the policies of any President I have been alive to endure because the last one that had any sense might have been Reagan, and I still thing he is a traitor too!

NIXON had more fucking integrity than the last 4 fucking presidents combined!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 sworn to uphold the laws ?!

If you’ll notice what I said, I have made no comment on whether or not Obama has engaged in any egregious sins. I’m merely stating the fact of law.

You clearly believe that the law should encompass a wider definition of treason than it does. Again, fair enough. But it’s pointless to argue that the law says something that it does not say.

The proper course of action for you to take is to work for a Constitutional amendment to revise the definition of treason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 sworn to uphold the laws ?!

I do not think that a constitutional amendment is necessary. People just need to understand what the word means. Over time we have twisted what the Constitution means to the point where SCOTUS makes the words “unreasonable” mean that a barking dog is grounds for reasonable search and seizure. The 4th is clear, what it says is… that the ONLY reasonable search and seizure is one conducted with a warrant. It does not even offer probable cause as sufficient excuse. You have to be clearly breaking the law to be seized/searched without warrant.

Now, the Constitution does not require that the US declare war on a foreign entity as one of multiple qualifications for treason. All it says is to provide aid to an enemy of the US. Mexican foreign nations that wave the Mexican flag on American soil are enemies. Obama directly provides them aid and support.

The founders defined treason for a very good reason. #1. to make sure that all people including the members of government cannot excuse themselves from it, and to make sure they cannot just say anyone looking black on a friday night is treason either.

Many illegals have waved a foreign flag, have mentioned they want to TAKE back what they believe is theirs and the Police did nothing. Obama, actively, provides Aid and Comfort to these people through EO and directives to the very agencies tasked with keeping illegals out of the US. Just because Obama has not walked to a rally of illegals waving a foreign flag a meal and a blanket by his own hand does not mean he gets to order his people to do it without sharing the guilt.

If these people were not actively performing acts that impeded on US Sovereignty then Obama may not have been guilty, but this is not the only time. There is also the situation with Iran.

The reason that the US did not historically involve itself with places like Iran is because they are the enemy of the US. Which meant no President has any right to establish Diplomatic ties much less work out a trade deal with them. But guess what, everyone has conveniently forgotten this out of pure magical convenience.

Obama dealing with Iran itself is considered treason as well by the founders definition of it.

I do not think it is a stretch at all… It is clear Obama has aided and comforted our Enemies and has does so in a way that mocks the American Citizens and Thumbs his nose at the law to boot. How much farther does Obama have to do to fit into YOUR definition of Treason? Murder a Citizen? That has happened with a drone strike.

promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves

This is from the Preamble to the US Constitution… a LEGALLY BINDING DOCUMENT! It makes it clear that Leaving the soil of the US does not remove a Citizens rights. The Constitution guides all American governments deals with all American Citizens regardless of their location.

Again, the Government is so corrupt, and the American Citizens so ignorant and foolish of the Law, the Constitution, and the precept of Liberty that they are no longer even properly equipped to identify when treason is occurring in front of their very faces or corrupt the government has become.

Americans have pissed away their own sovereignty, dignity, and liberty for welfare and security theater in cowardice!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 sworn to uphold the laws ?!

Please, please read the arguments the founders were having with each other about the treason thing. The interpretation of it has not been distorted over time.

There was great agreement that “treason” should have an incredibly narrow definition to prevent accusations of treason from being used as a political weapon.

TechDescartes (profile) says:

A Different Perspective

The JAMA Authorship Responsibility, Conflicts of Interest and Funding, and Copyright Transfer/Publishing Agreement acknowledges the non-copyrightable nature of U.S. government works, offering this checkbox which a staffer presumably checked on Obama’s behalf:

I was an employee of the US federal government when this work was conducted and prepared for publication; therefore, it is not protected by the Copyright Act, and copyright ownership cannot be transferred.

But is it “copyfraud” to put a copyright notice on the document? Two things to consider: first, there is no indication that Obama drafted the summary on the first page, which would be a derivative work entitled to a copyright. Second, there is an even thinner copyright to be claimed in the layout, headings, and page numbering of the document.

So, could redistribution of only the text authored by Obama create liability? No. Could redistribution of the document exactly as prepared by JAMA create liability? Maybe. Will JAMA attempt to enforce? Not likely. Is it ridiculous that copyright law is this complicated? Yes.

Rekrul says:

Hopefully something happens.

Dear Mr. Eisen,

Thank you for contacting the office of the President of the United States. President Obama values the the opinions of all United States citizens. Unfortunately due to the volume of mail he receives, the president is unable to respond to each letter individually. As a thank you for writing, please accept this autographed photo of President Obama.

Yours Truly
[Random staff member]

Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Is the article public domain?

It is far from clear that the official writings of Obama are in the public domain. It is true that “Section 105 of US copyright law makes it quite explicit that ‘any work of the United States Government” cannot be covered by copyright.” But the definition of a “work of the United States Government” found in Section 101 amplifies that these works are by “an officer or employee of the United States Government.” The president is not an officer; under the Appointments clause of the Constitution he has the authority to appoint officers of the US government, hence cannot be one himself. As head of state, he is probably not an employee of the government.

The assumption through most of US history since Justice Story’s opinion in Folsom v. Marsh has been that the president owned both the copyright and the physical property in his papers. The Presidential Records Act transferred physical ownership of the papers to the US government, but it is silent as to copyright.

In short, an argument could be made that Obama does own the copyright in his presidential writings.

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