Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Fair Use

Does anyone know anything about what constitutes 'fair use' with regard to short quotations? By short I mean a sentence or two, no more than three or four, and of course properly attributed. I've been doing some research online and it appears to be a very fluid term and open to interpretation - even by the courts.


hesitant scribe said...

Hiya, Your safest bet is to follow the guidelines given in UK Copyright law, found here, http://copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p01_uk_copyright_law

It would depend what you wanted to use it for also. I think if you want to include a quotation in a published work, the owner of the copyright must be approached and asked for permission, and monies required paid. I'm not sure whose responsibility it is to do this, but would imagine the publisher as they are liable.

Hope this helps.

Sean McManus said...

My understanding is that it's a question of quality, not quantity, in that you need permission to use a 'significant portion' and in the case of a poem or song, that might only be a few words.

Publishers are very risk-averse and ask authors to get clearance for absolutely everything. I'd be inclined to agree that it's worth getting stuff cleared. It's a real pain, but much less of a pain than having to find replacement material and pulp books.

This isn't legally watertight, but online, it's generally accepted that you're allowed to reproduce short excerpts of material for the purposes of commentary provided you link to the source and the original source is a legal reproduction. I'd recommend using as little as you can get away with - it'll focus your reader's attention as well as limiting any potential objections.

In my experience, people usually grant permission to be quoted. When people say 'no', it's better hearing it before you've incorporated it into your own work/commentary.

wordtryst said...

Hesitant Scribe, thanks for the link. I'm off to read it now.

Sean, thank you for the information. I mistakenly assumed that the publisher would be responsible for getting clearance, but now I know better.