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Foresight Debate with Scientific American

Foresight Institute vs Scientific American
Debate on nanotechnology: Round 2 from Foresight

Overview of the Debate

Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Epilogue

Round 2 -- Part 1 | Part 2

Foresight reply to Email from Scientific American

Date: Sat, 13 Apr 1996 18:12:04 -0700
Mime-Version: 1.0
Subject: Re: unauthorized use of SciAm materials

We have received your email dated 5 April concerning "unauthorized use of SciAm materials" in the Web document published at the Foresight web site.

We have consulted with copyright counsel. We believe that the quotations from the news story "Trends in Nanotechnology: Waiting for Breakthroughs" (April 1996) fall within the safe harbor of fair use principles stated in Section 107 of the Copyright Act. We do not believe we have any obligation, under either Section 107 or the First Amendment, to cease to use these quotations in an effort to set the record straight and to defend our organization's work. For information on fair use, see these Web pages:

With that said, we appreciate your offer that your space on America Online can be used for public discourse on this topic; however, most scientists and technologists use the Internet rather than this proprietary service. (For example, the number of postings on the SciAm AOL site indicate that even the most controversial topics have evoked fewer responses in a period of months or years than the Foresight Web site has received in a few days.) Accordingly, the discussion appears to be taking place primarily in the Internet newsgroup sci.nanotech. Customers of commercial services such as AOL are welcome to participate in sci.nanotech.

Your suggestion that letters to the editor are a good way to respond is being pursued by a number of people. Please see for a selection of letters. Some letters have been stimulated by the facilitated email feature at the end of our Web page containing Dr. Merkle's rebuttal to the news story. These were sent to the email address, which is different from the one recommended in your email.

Gary Stix, the writer of the news story, offered to support the publication of a letter on this topic -- including the URL of Dr. Merkle's response -- in the paper version of your magazine. We recommended the letter sent by Eric Drexler, who is discussed at length in the news story. Dr. Drexler's letter is only a few lines long, giving the URL for our longer response on the Web, since so many points demand a response that even a substantially longer letter would have been inadequate.

In addition to Dr. Drexler's letter, we urge that the letter sent by Carl Feynman, the son of Richard Feynman, also be published in the paper version of your magazine, since it explains the manner in which Richard Feynman's name is misused in the story. Publication of these two letters would be a significant step toward setting the record straight regarding scientific assessments of nanotechnology. We believe that both merit publication in the paper version of the magazine, regardless of what may also be published at the SciAm Web site.

The rebuttal written by Dr. Merkle and published by Foresight can be considered an open letter to the editor. While it is too long for the Letters section of your paper magazine, it could easily be included in the Web version. To address your concerns regarding copyright and the availability of quotations from your magazine at our Web site, we suggest that Dr. Merkle's rebuttal, in its present point/counterpoint format, be posted as a Letter to the Editor on your Web site, making it unnecessary for our site to carry it. If Dr. Merkle's rebuttal is posted on your Web site, then we will delete it from our site. If space limitations or other concerns ever require that you delete it from your site, we could then archive it for you at our site, at no charge, as a service to the science community.

Another possibility, although somewhat more cumbersome from the readers' point of view, would be to publish the original news story at your new Web site, being sure to include an "anchor" at the beginning of each paragraph. This would enable Dr. Merkle to make his point-by-point rebuttal without having to use direct quotations. However, this would require readers to switch from our site to yours as they read; publishing the entire piece in the Letters section would be a more straightforward approach.

We welcome Scientific American to the Web community. Having Dr. Merkle's rebuttal included in your Web site as it debuts next month would emphasize to the online community that your magazine intends to bring to the Web its traditional strength in promoting critical discussion of science issues.

In conclusion, we are interested in working with you to address your concerns regarding copyright. However, as we hope you will appreciate, it is vital for a non-profit organization such as ours to foster discussion to advance understanding of scientific and technical issues in nanotechnology. Because the Foresight Institute's and Scientific American's general aims are and should be the same, we wish to work with you so that all parties issues and concerns are addressed. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss this matter further.

--Foresight Institute

Round 2 -- Part 1 | Part 2

Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Epilogue

Overview of the Debate


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