1. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Using quotes in writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Aprella, Nov 12, 2013.

    If you let a character quote someone/something (book, something a person said, a song etc...) and you mention who said/wrote/made it, can you use it without any other trouble? I was considering giving one of my characters a notebook full of such quotes that he carries around the whole time and perhaps share them with the people who accompany him on his journey. Example:

    "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches the soul," he said.
    "Hope is a bird?"
    "Perhaps," he smiled. "It's from a poem by Emily Dickinson"
     
  2. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    That's perfectly fine. IIRC it falls under the fair use clause of the copyright law.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fair use never applies to including someone else's copyrighted material in fiction.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!

    check out the fair use exception and how it can be applied here: www.copyright.gov
     
  5. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Okay, thank you :)
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This isn't true.

    Nope :D

    I've pointed this out on the site probably a dozen times, but it keeps getting repeated as though fact.
     
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  7. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Nice, Steerpike. :D Care to explain why?
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Sure. Fair Use, at least in the U.S., is a four-factor test. The nature of the work (e.g. commercial, non-commercial) is one factor. A fictional work, which is commercial in nature, is going to be less likely to be found to have made a Fair Use than a non-commercial work, because of how this factor is considered. Also, there might be other problems any given fictional work would face. No single factor is dispositive in the Fair use analysis, however. You'll often see people say that a commercial use can't be a fair use, or that a piece of fiction could never make a fair use of copyrighted material, and that's just not the case.

    Before the 2 Live Crew case in the early 1990s, commercial use was viewed as presumptively unfair. But in that case, the Supreme Court (finding that the 2 Live Crew commercial use was in fact Fair Use) pretty much set that aside and went back to a true application of all four fair use factors. There's no way to point at one type of work, or any one single factor, and say "Aha, if you have that it can't be Fair Use!"
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2013
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  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    In this case, and assuming that the poem in question is still under copyright, I think that there are no grounds for arguing fair use. Not transformative, not parody, not education, etc., etc. I'm not a lawyer, of course, but I don't think that it would qualify.

    I see that the original question asked if it's better if you say where you got it/give credit: No. That doesn't help with copyright issues.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Well, in the case mentioned by the OP, it's irrelevant, because Dickinson's work is in the public domain :) (some editions might not be). There's no fair use issue. Also, there is a doctrine of de minimis use that may come into play in some cases.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2013
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Leaving aside the fair use issue for a moment, there is also the punctuation issue. It should appear like this:

    "'Hope is the thing with feathers that perches the soul,'" he said.
     
  12. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Cogito copyright Dickinson... yeah, right...
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, i overlooked the 'never' in cog's post... given that, i should not have replied 'yup!'...
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The purpose of Fair Use is to not place an undue burden on reviews and scholarly writing. I suppose their could be court cases that blur the lines (isn't that the primafy source of glee among lawyers?), but for all practical purposes you should consider Fair Use inapplicable to fiction.

    Naturally, content that does not fall under copyright at all does not involve Fair Use either.

    Fair Use does not mean that if the embedded copyrighted material is short, you are allowed to use it without permission.
     
  15. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Cogito have you ever saw one of those "1000 Quotes" books, some thematic, some just general "wise words from wise people"? I'm pretty sure OP thinks something in the line with that, based on his example.

    And based on said example: HOW and from WHOM would you exactly acquire permition to use an Emily Dickinson quote?
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    For out of copyright quotes, you don't need permission.

    For those still in copyright, you need the permission of the copyright holder, presumably usually the authors, their work-for-hire employers, or their heirs. I don't think that there's any sort of handy clearinghouse for this; I suspect that you'd have to negotiate author by author by author.
     
  17. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ChickenFreak A propos: a friend of mine made this little documentary on some local Roma family and used a couple of pop songs for background music. It was okey for youtube, but when he was to get the film to a festival in London, they asked him to include permissions for using this music. A day before the festival he came to London, sit on a cab, found publishers of the songs he used via his mobile, visited each and got permissions. It took him 3 hours and a few £ for the cab, that's it.

    It's hardly a Great Big Courtroom Drama to send an email here and there, or even visit publishers on foot if you're nearby. There are ready procedures for this kind of things. And I'm pretty much convinced serious authors do this during editing stages, not before they even finished the structure skeleton of their story: if it's not a blatant and rude rip-off, of course.

    And really, is that hard to check out if the author you're quoting is dead, alive or imaginary? There were questions like these concerning quotes and pastiche from Homer, Bible and fairy tales: and the thread always ends up with such ridiculous advice as "if you use copyright material in your text and your mother sees it, expect a lawsuit" (?!)

    This just scares off inexperienced authors. Not to mention the fact that without some intertextuality literature stops being a cultural phenomenon and settles down to manual production of "writing"... rantranrant...
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like you're assuming that publishers always provide a quick yes, and never so much as demand a fee. I'm pleased that the publishers that your friend dealt with were so reasonable, but I, on the other hand, once attended talk held by a small film maker who was unable to pay a demanded fee and therefore had to cut some valuable footage from his film due to the copyrighted material that it contained.

    No, so why not do so, so that you know that you're safe? (Though of course, whether the author is dead or alive doesn't make a difference to copyright.)

    If someone does a translation or other non-trivial work on an out-of-copyright work, then the resulting work is copyrightable So, yeah, it's wise to pay attention to exactly where you got your quotes from, no matter how ancient the original source.

    You seem to be assuming that an awareness of copyright will stop all creativity. What's wrong with, for example, obtaining an edition of the Bible or of Shakespeare that *is* well out of copyright, so that you can use them without worry?
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
  19. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    To my knowledge, religious books have never been copyrighted. Well, not the King James version of the Bible anyway. Mine actually says under publisher info that they want you to copy the contents and spread it around lol.
     
  20. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course not - but the format and the what, where and how comes to question as well: using the newest MTV hit in a commercial feature film is still different than quoting a sentence from a 30 year old book in a self-published short story. The principle may be the same - but we should try to keep it real. Last year I've published two stories with quotes from an Ian Banks and Ian Mcewan novels, respectively. One is being translated for a German edition. No lawsuits expected.

    Except Emily Dickinson, please :)

    Never said anything like that :) Awareness is cool : randomly misinforming strangers about them being sued for quoting Emily Dickinson - that sucks.

    I say go with that - except there are no outdated editions of Shakespeare, the text is virtualy the same in the first folio and in any subsequent editions. (Except abridged versions, but why would anyone buy, let alone quote from an abridged version is beyond me :p)
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The King James version of the Bible is subject to copyright in the UK. It's Crown Copyright, which doesn't expire. Most recent translations are copyright too. Something like the ASV should be safe.
     
  22. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @digitig New English or Revised English Bible are free to quote (up to 500 verses!)... The "eternal copyright" was a political move by the Crown 4c ago and today it just makes no sense...And it could be abolished within hours, if anyone would care... bwoody Bwitish ;)
     
  23. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, people care -- just not the people who could make the change. It's a little money-spinner for the government, so they're in no hurry to do away with it.

    The KJV is probably the only Crown Copyright text that authors are likely to run into (possibly the Book of Common Prayer too), and only if their work will be available in the UK. In the case of traditional publishing for a US author that would probably be a matter for the publisher to worry about if they choose to publish in the UK. With online self-publishing, though, it's going to be down to you.
     
  24. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Okay, thank you all for the information :D
     

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