Copyright laws are pretty complex and it takes an understanding of them to avoid inadvertently stepping on another writer’s toes landing yourself in hot water in the process. With this said, coming to grips with the basics might seem a bit involved, but well worth the effort.
By using another author’s quote in your copy, you are in effect infringing a copyright if you have not been permission to do so. Writers and authors have a habit of using quotes under the impression it’s allowed , but the reality is somewhat different.
Copyright on literary and other work stands for 70 years once the author has passed away – that is of course, unless the text has been deemed copyright-free. After this period of time, you can use quotes knowing you are not infringing any copyright laws.
There Are Ways around the Problem
There are a few ways around the issue of copyright which can save you a whole lot of hassle if you really need to use quotes in your work and these are as follows:
- First choice – only use copyright-free quotes in your text, or choose quotes from an author who has been dead for over 70 years
- Second, contact the author and ask permission to use selected quotes from their work
- Lastly, you could opt to contact the “permissions department” of the book or other work you would like to quote from and request permission
The last option can take a bit of time because you may have to deal with a mainstream publisher and they are notoriously slow in responding to requests. However, if you’re dealing with a self-published author, it makes things a whole lot easier because they have total control of their work.
You May Have to Pay a Fee
Another thing to bear in mind, is you may be asked to pay a fee if you want to use any quotes from published work, especially if you’re dealing with a publishing house. The amount could be exorbitant, which brings up the question of how important is the quote to your copy?
An infringement is an Infringement, Even if it is by Mistake
Copyright is often infringed by pure accident although this is not always the case. The problem being that even it you do make a mistake and use another author’s text not realising you don’t have the right to do so, the penalty is the same as if you had used the quotes on purpose knowing you are infringing a copyright.
If you have to use quotes, make sure they are copyright-free or ones you’ve been given permission to use. Failing to do so, may well end up costing you a fortune!
Author: Honey Wood
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