At least, that’s the short version of the answer.
The slightly longer version of the answer would be: how long has the original author or speaker been dead?
This has come up a few times when I wanted to quote more than just the title of a song or poem. The rough rule of thumb for fair use in a commercial setting (your book) that I was given has been five words. If you quote more than five recognizable words, then you are getting into copyright law’s turf. The rule comes from academia, specifically what constitutes plagiarism, and a real copyright law site suggests that you can go a touch farther. In one case, I knew I didn’t have a prayer of using the lyric, because it was (and as far as I know, still is) tied up in a nasty copyright fight between a performer and the writer of the song, and the distributor. That’s the sort of fight no author wants to wade into, so I made up some lyrics that fit the mood of the song and went from there.
Making up something is always safe. Doing your own translations is also safe. Read more
As promised, this is a link-post. I can guarantee that the links all worked, as of yesterday. However, not all of them go to equally usable sites. Some are more general IP, others are specific. I tried to avoid any that are so specific that you might not need them (i.e. things along the lines of, “How does copyright on reproductions of public-domain images differ between Poland and Lithuania?”)
www.thepassivevoice.com If you are not reading this blog, you probably ought to at least poke around it once every-other-week or so. PG is a copyright lawyer, and posts links to original sources as well as to legal dictionaries and related sources. And quotes, and book-plugs for Mrs. P.G’s historical novels. Read more
From over at PG’s place, the dreadful tale of a publisher-relationship that went badly wrong for the writer. Short version – he got stiffed and was not paid what he was owed.
Dan Rhodes got curious about why one book wasn’t earning anything. Here’s the first part of the story, and the publisher’s explanation: it was all a mistake.
Although this applies primarily to internet content providers, specifically media outlets such as newspapers, TV, and news sites, the proposed revisions to European Union copyright and “Fair Use” rules could affect [afflict?] bloggers and writers as well, depending on how we use material and if we post things on-line for readers (Article 11) and the evidence requirements for proof of Copyright.
I’ve posted some info and links below the fold:
The European Union has approved new copyright laws on digital content. They are to protect content providers from piracy and abuse of copyrighted material.
Sounds great, except…
Here you are, again. And here I am, again. And here’s a timely thing. Teh Grauniad has more details here.
Suffice to say, Ms. Johansson won a French court case because a judge agreed that a French novel (not yet translated into English) contains a character who is often mistaken for her, and that the fictional character’s fictional affairs because it “fraudulently exploited her name, her image, and her celebrity.”