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The Question

(Submitted September 08, 1996)

I have a new theory concerning astrophysics. I am writing a study about it and am proving it. Please give me any tips on how to make my theory copyrighted!

The Answer

Scientific theories cannot be copyrighted. Science advances by the free exchange of ideas. Publications which discuss theories can be copyrighted, to ensure that authors and publishers receive proper credit for their work. If you would like details of that process, which typically results in the publisher holding the copyright, you might want to talk to the publisher of an appropriate scientific journal or a copyright lawyer. Copyright law is well outside our area of expertise. You could establish priority for your ideas by releasing them on the Internet (to a newsgroup or on a web page).

We are glad that you are interested in astrophysics, but we're concerned that you seem unfamiliar with the way that scientists communicate their work through publication. If you haven't received much training in science it is very unlikely that you will be able to make important contributions to astrophysical theory until you have thoroughly learned the craft. It usually takes several years of intense study and practice at a good university to become competent in even a small sub-field of modern astrophysics - but, quoting a colleague, 'Only those who are familiar with the current state of the art can hope to surpass it'.

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