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All Things Writing & Publishing > Referencing an external work and copyright?

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message 1: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7081 comments I have a scene in my next book which opens...


Build me an army worthy of Mordor.
The line from Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movie was a frequent guest in Louise Wesson’s mind. ....

Is this a viable option from a copyright perspective?

How would I check?


message 2: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7081 comments Actually, I've just replaced this (better safe than sorry) - but still, probably worth asking as a general topic for discussion.


message 3: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 2897 comments Don't think you would have any problem. I used some of the lyrics from My Way (C) Paul Anka as Chapter headings in one of my books and I wanted to include the whole song at the start. Instead I just quoted the headings.

I believe this usage is covered under comment and as long as it is attributed it is fair use.

I have since used song lyrics, quotes form movies etc in other books.

If you think of a dissertation or school essay many include lengthy quotes, which require formal referencing. Copyright is not an issue in these cases. Your quote is much less than that.


message 4: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7081 comments Thanks Philip,

Perhaps I'll put it back in. Are you aware of any links that explain "fair use?"

Especially in a book that would be sold for profit.

Thanks

Cheers Graeme


message 5: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 2897 comments There was another forum on GR that covered it but I can't recall. The law varies by country too.


message 6: by Alex (last edited Mar 18, 2018 01:36PM) (new)

Alex (asato) This article, "A Basic Guide to Getting Permissions + Sample Permissions Letter", describes when you need to get permission as well as has a link to a "fair use" article.

https://www.janefriedman.com/sample-p...


message 7: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7081 comments Excellent, thanks Alex.

Cheers Graeme


message 8: by Victor (last edited Mar 19, 2018 07:33AM) (new)

Victor Lopez (victordlopez) | 8 comments Graeme wrote: "I have a scene in my next book which opens...


‘Build me an army worthy of Mordor.’
The line from Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movie was a frequent guest in Louise Wesson’s mind. ....

Is this a viabl..."


I won't give specific advice on copyright issues, but can give general guidance based on current copyright law in the U.S. Using a single line from a movie or book is generally safe under fair use even in a for-profit book. Much greater leeway is available when fair use is made in a not-for-profit setting such as quoting a passage from a book for purposes of a book review or literary criticism, or referencing movie dialogue as part of a movie review. Use of copyrighted material for a commercial purpose is usually forbidden without permission from the copyright holder (which is not necessarily the author, by the way). But a single line is almost certainly covered by fair use as courts in a copyright infringement action will look basically at four factors:

1. The purpose of the use (e.g., commercial or non-commercial, with commercial use triggering infringement much more readily unless the infringement is truly minimal);
2. The nature of the work (e.g., quoting a full page in a book review of a 400 page novel is probably fine for non-commercial use, but printing a one-page poem from a 60 page book of poems may not be);
3. The amount and substantiality of the material used (again, the shorter the work the less amount of it that may be used even for non-profit purposes such as criticism);
4. The potential impact of the use on the marketability of the work. (Even for non-profit purposes, one can't use a single page of a 400 page novel if that page is of critical importance to the work--such as giving away the murderer in a murder mystery. The amount of material used matters, but so does the overall potential impact on the copyright holder's ability to exclusively profit from the work.)

There are other exceptions to copyright infringement, such as parody. And, of course, works whose copyright has expired are fair game--though derivative works created from such works are protected by copyright until their own copyright expires. Thus, Tolkien's works are not protected by copyright, but movies based on them are; the makers of Jaws have a copyright to their derivative work based loosely on Melville's Moby Dick; and West Side Story is copyrighted without infringing of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet on which it is based since the bard's copyrights have long ago expired as well.

It is always a good idea when there is any doubt as to how much material may safely be used to get permission from the copyright holder for the intended use of their work. Keep in mind that proper attribution is relevant only to avoiding a charge of plagiarism but in no way excuses using copyrighted work without permission. And one can be guilty of copyright infringement without any malicious intent--such as by using material one finds online and believes to be "in the public domain". That may avoid criminal penalties for infringement, but not necessarily civil penalties for infringement regardless of the nature of the infringement (for profit and not for profit).

I hope this helps. If you'd like additional information on copyright law, you can read the relevant chapters free of charge from my general reference book on intellectual property from Amazon by using the "look inside" feature here: https://www.amazon.com/Intellectual-P.... I hope this helps.


message 9: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13063 comments Victor, thanks a lot for this concise, yet very informative summary! I'm sure, it'll be useful for many members here


message 10: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7081 comments Exactly what Nik said. Thanks, Cheers Graeme


message 11: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 2897 comments Thank you Victor.


message 12: by Victor (new)

Victor Lopez (victordlopez) | 8 comments Nik wrote: "Victor, thanks a lot for this concise, yet very informative summary! I'm sure, it'll be useful for many members here"

My pleasure!


message 13: by Victor (new)

Victor Lopez (victordlopez) | 8 comments Graeme wrote: "Exactly what Nik said. Thanks, Cheers Graeme"

You're very welcome.


message 14: by Victor (new)

Victor Lopez (victordlopez) | 8 comments Philip wrote: "Thank you Victor."

You're very welcome.


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