Monday, May 12, 2008

What quotes need copyright permission?

As a publisher one of the most frequently questions I am asked by authors is:

How long does a quote needs to be before one needs to get copyright holder’s explicit permission for reproduction?

I used to reply 150 words, but I was wrong!

There is no answer that applies to all cases as it very much depends on the context.

The British Academy and The Publishers Association have published a very useful guide for academics to copyright entitled, Guidelines for researchers and publishers in the Humanities and Social Sciences (April 2008) where the following are taken from:

" Section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act states:

Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism or review, of that or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

Some previous publishing industry assumptions, for example that taking up to 400 words is ‘safe’, are now unreliable. So, for example, an extract of 250 words from James Joyce’s Ulysses (less than one thousandth of the entire work) was held to be substantial on the basis of their unique and distinctive quality. Similarly, an extract taken from the musical work ‘Colonel Bogey’, consisting of some 20 bars and lasting only 50 seconds, was held to be a substantial part, because it was that bit of the music which the public would immediately
recognise (the ‘hook’).

Generally speaking, to be fair dealing any excerpt or extract made from a copyright work must not be an appropriation of an entire work or of that part which would represent the substance of the author’s skill and labour.

Lengthy extracts from another work have been allowed in one case where the court was satisfied that the purpose was purely to enable criticism to be made effectively, rather than simply to provide the same information as the original work and to compete with it. In many cases, the effect of good criticism and review is to increase rather than diminish the market for a work.

Fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work for the purposes of research for a non-commercial purpose does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement (emphasis added)."


Enric Castelló said...

Dear Masoud,
Thank you for this interesting post. It is very useful! Could you tell us something about 'figures'? I am reproducing and briefly comenting a figure -is like a scheme which I have translated to Spanish- in one book. Of course I am quoting the authors' and offering the reference. This book is an introduction to main works on media and identity. I fact quoting them is a kind of promotion of the works. Do you think this use would need a copywright permission? Thank you againg and all the best,
Enric Castelló

Masoud Yazdani said...

I think it is always best to contact the person whose work you are using and let them know and seek their explicit permission. In most cases they are going to be delighted. If you try to contact the author and are not able to make contact then you can decide to go ahead and publish with the full knowledge that you did your best to get the permission in advance.

Bernard Paraiso said...

Thank you for the post. I still had another question. What about for works such as an anthology of quotes? Is permission still needed from the author or their estates?

bernography said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maria Contreras said...

I wonder if you can help. I'd like to print a quote on a t-shirt and I don't know who said it. It is 'I have learnt so much from the mistakes I have made, I'm thinking of making some more'

Would I be legally ok to print this on t-shirts?


gabe said...

What about when documenting plagiarism? For example, I've been documenting the plagiarism of Jaideep Motwani at my blog

The best way I've found to show the plagiarism is to show two snippets of text from the two sources. This isn't really literary criticism, and I'm sure Motwani doesn't want me using quotes from him at this point. I have tried to contact Motwani several times, but he hasn't yet responded. In some cases, the plagiarized text is rather unique and/or famous.

Why Motwani plagiarized like this is beyond me...

Anonymous said...

With respect this article obfuscates rather than clarifies.

The author starts by talking about the question most frequently asked by authors' and then immediately tells us about guidance provided for academics. Authors are not always academics, nor visa versa.

As an author about to publish my first book, I really would like to to know what quotes need copyright permission. Any further thoughts?

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Sigrid said...

Hi, I would like to print a book of famous and less famous quotes. They are a max of 2 liners. As they are by a great variety of authors it would be an impossible task to get permission from each. Can I publish them - of course giving the autor credit as the person who said or wrote it?

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