Copyrighting quotes in a book compilation

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  • Please help. I have compiled 2 anthologies of quotes, some in the public domain(ok to reprint) some not , ie 4 lines of music lyrics, a quote that someone living said, quote from a poem from a living poet. I would like to self publish these quote books and sell them via a well known church and on line via my own website, with ALL profits going to cancer research. I have made sure the quotes are between 2 and 8 lines, no more and do not demean, satirise the author in any way. Am I still in breach of copyright and if so, would Elton John want to take me to court for allowing 2 lines of his lyrics into a book made purely to raise money for charity? Answers anyone please, I am desperate to have this resolved before christmas!!!thank you.
  • While I have no clue what Elton John will do, the simple answer is that after checking the Fair Use Checklist (found under Quick Links on our homepage), you are proabably infringing on copyright. Against fair use is that it is a commercial activity, you profit from the use (it doesn't matter that you are donating the profits to charity), are these quotes well known to the speaker/author, then the quotes while only a small part of the person's complete works it might be considered the "heart of the work", and lastly there will be multiple copies made and sold. The only things in favor of fair use is that you are careful to use only a small quantity and your product is not similar to one marketed by the copyright holder.

    Have you sought permission to include the copyrighted material in your anthologies? It is possible that when you explain your purpose the copyright holder may be agreeable for inclusion.

    Good luck.
  • I wonder if the case for fair use is really as weak as is suggested. Is it not possible to view this as a transformative work which does not compete with the originals in any way? Presumably the quotations would be group in a thematic way that would create a new context. And I cannot believe that someone would buy the quotation book described instead of buying an Elton John CD or sheet music. If this is a transformative work, then the first and third fair use factors would seem to favor fair use, as would the third factor, since only short excerpts from each work would be used. It does not seem certain to me that each quote would be the heart of the original work, since they are clearly being gathered for a much different purpose than those various purposes for which the originals were created.

    I don't know much about the quotation book industry (to say nothing of websites), but I would be very surprised to learn that each publisher of such a book gets permission for every single short quote published that comes from an in-copyright work. What do others think?
  • It's a tough call. If you were going with an established publisher, they would most likely have certain in-house rules about when you need to seek permission and when you don't. I've worked with publishers who wanted me to get permission for 4 lines of poetry, and other publishers who feel that works of criticism never need to get permission to quote anything.

    If you are self-publishing you have a fair chance of being "under the radar" and too small to concern someone like Elton John.

    Just to provide examples, I have two quotation books in handy reach in my office. _The Oxford Book of Aphorisms_ has a faily lengthy acknowledgments and permissions section in the back. _The Portable Curmudgeon_ says not one word about permissions. It's possible this may have something to do with the fact that the pubishers are, respectively, British and American. But as you can see, there are examples on either side of the question.
  • Mmm, I don't think even a lawyer could give me the exact truth on this as it varies from country to country too. best get back to the drawingboard and start asking for permission, or just throw in the towel!
    Thanks for your views.

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