Monday, October 3, 2016


Since this whole area of Fair Use can be confusing, I have contacted some publishers about what kind of guidelines they use for their editors and authors. Below is a list of guidelines used by a major book publisher. Again, this list is not meant to be the definitive answer to these questions, but it can be used as a general guide to put this all into perspective.

        1. Poetry: One line may be used without seeking permission; two lines or more require permission if the poem is not in public domain.

        2. Books of Prose: 501 or more words require permission. (This IS an arbitrary limit and will be altered in some cases.) This means a total of 501 words from the same source quoted throughout a manuscript, not necessarily just one quotation.

  1. Article or other brief prose works: 101 or more words require permission. (Again, this is an arbitrary limit and may vary in some cases.)

  1. Drama: 76 or more words require permission. This is an arbitrary limit and its validity will depend on whether the quotation is one continuous passage or a few words picked up from throughout the play.

      5. Music: Permission must be obtained for any copyrighted music used.

  1. Song lyrics: See poetry; same guidelines.

  1. Any material complete in itself: Permission must be obtained for use of entire short stories, essays, a chapter from a book, a prayer, an article, table, chart, map, graph, photograph, cartoon, drawing, etc.

  1. Unpublished material: This is protected, and permission from the owner for even the briefest excerpt must be obtained. Remember: letters (the content) belong to the person who wrote them, not to the recipient. You must have written consent from the writer of the letter in order to quote from it, unless the writer is deceased.

  1. Anthologies: Obtain permission for anything under copyright within the anthology.

  1. Case studies, counseling tapes, etc.: This material is usually not under copyright, but use without permission may constitute invasion of privacy.
  2. Parodies: A parody is usually intended to make fun of something. If you create a parody based on someone else’s material, it is best to get permission for such use.
  3. Your material from Periodicals: When you plan to quote something you have said in a periodical, the new publisher may want a written confirmation from the original publisher that you have retained or control the copyright in the work.
Note: No permission is required for quoting works in the public domain. However, whether permission is needed or not, authors must give credit to their sources.

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