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Using newspapers for a history book

 
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rosieorosie
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 6:24 pm    Post subject: Using newspapers for a history book Reply with quote

Hi.
I am writing a history book and want to use local newspapers from the 1940s/1950s. I would be using them to provide me with factual information but also would like to quote from particular editorials and news articles. Most editions I would be using nothing at all; of the rest, the maximum number of articles I would need to use per edition would be two and the maximum I would need from any one piece is probably at most about 250 words. My impression was that I need permission and so I should approach the newspaper owners, but the government’s advice on this is that I may not need permission if I only want to use a `less than substantial’ part of a copyright protected work (see their Intellectual Property page). Is this correct? If so, would the use I have suggested above count as `less than substantial’? Or is the government advice actually incorrect and I have to approach the owners regardless of how much/little I want to use?
On a different note, is it ok to use newspapers as inspiration for a piece of fiction or is that infringing copyright?
Much appreciate any advice.
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi rosieorosie,

The problem with the 'substantial amount' approach is that no-one can give you a definitive guide as to what is substantial. These days the approach is to look at the quoted amount in qualitative terms rather than quantitatively, so the chances are that the part which you wish to quote is quite likely to be the essence of the work and may well be the part which is thus, in the eyes of a court, the most substantial part.

The new exception for the purpose of quotation, which the one most likely to apply to what you want to do, probably provides a much better guide. Here's what it says:
Quote:
(1ZA) Copyright in a work is not infringed by the use of a quotation from the work (whether for criticism or review or otherwise) provided that—
    (a) the work has been made available to the public,

    (b) the use of the quotation is fair dealing with the work,

    (c) the extent of the quotation is no more than is required by the specific purpose for which it is used, and

    (d) the quotation is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement (unless this would be impossible for reasons of practicality or otherwise).
That just leaves the issue of what 'fair dealing' means. The courts tend to give this its ordinary meaning, that is to say what a reasonable person would say was fair in the circumstances, and is largely synonymous with sub paragraph (c).

The other thing to bear in mind is that when it comes to newspapers, each article is a 'work' in its own right, for copyright purposes, as each will usually have a separate author. Of course the newspaper's publisher will normally own the copyright in all the articles which go to make up a particular edition. So on that basis, using 250 words from a single article may well amount to too much to be considered fair dealing; but not always. For example if an article is the report of an interview consisting of a lot of quoted responses from the interviewee, then the author of the article would not be able claim copyright in the reported speech. Similarly if the article was largely made up of facts, this would reduce the amount of creativity contributed by the author, and so on.

My advice would be to carefully consider what you need to quote verbatim and what you can paraphrase in your own words, and so long as you strike a fair balance, you should be fine relying on the quotation exception.

As for your second question, there should be absolutely no problem basing a work of fiction on newspaper reports and editorials, especially where the original content is itself largely factual (ie part of the historical record).
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Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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rosieorosie
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's incredibly helpful, thank you so much. It occurred to me after I posted the message that I hadn't made clear that my history book is a commercial exercise; am not sure if that changes your advice now. Many, many apologies if it does.
Could I just clarify, you refer to paraphrasing as much as possible. Does that mean that if I put what I want to use (from their editorials and articles) into my own words then I am not infringing copyright anyway?
If I do need to quote, is copyright infringement judged article by article? The reason I ask is that - although I will now try to restrict how much I actually quote verbatim - over the course of using perhaps 50 or so articles over the course of 5-6 years these quotes all add up together to quite a lot of material. So could the newspaper have grounds to complain because of the overall total or can they only complain per individual article?
I would also like to quote a few letters to the editor - I believe I'm right in thinking that the letter-writers themselves own copyright. Letters are so very short that is it possible that even quoting just one sentence could infringe their rights? I could have fun tracing them or their descendants...
And just one final question I promise, what kind of sum could a newspaper charge if I decide I do indeed need to ask their permission?
Thank you so much; I know I have asked a lot here.
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi rosieorosie,

No, nothing is changed by the fact that you wish to publish your history book on a commercial basis - I had assumed that anyway.

And if you paraphrase you should almost entirely avoid the issue of copyright infringement in the first place, because copyright is concerned with the specific expression of an idea, and not the idea itself. As much of what appears in a newspaper will be factual, re-expressing these facts in your own words will generally avoid the problem. Editorials tend to be more opinion-based and so it would be quite all right to report what opinion was being put forward - again in your own words - if that achieves your purpose.

As I mentioned, each article will generally be a stand-alone copyright work, and so if you want to quote from several taken from the same edition of a paper, or many over lots of editions, each instance will be treated separately rather than cumulatively. And given the age of the newspapers I doubt if the publishers, assuming that they are still in existence today, will care very much about their old stories being used to support an historical account. They are far more concerned with the likes of Google scraping their current content without financial recompense. As you will be aware the British Library's digitization of old newspapers is being done for the cultural benefits that such wider access will bring, and this approach chimes well with your planned use of these old newspaper articles.

You are right to say that the writers of letters to the papers will own the copyright in them, but most will be unaware that they have any rights, so I don't think the letters will pose a special problem, even if you do feel the need to quote more substantially from them, relative to their length. As you say, tracing these individuals (or their heirs) for permission would be extremely difficult.

As for the sums you might be charged, I really have no idea. All the licences provided by bodies like the Newspaper Licensing Agency or the Copyright Licensing Agency are geared towards corporate or institutional use on a fairly large scale, and are not appropriate for your purposes. If you did feel it was necessary to seek permission, I would approach the matter without expecting to pay, given that your use would be for the purposes of scholarship. If you are intending to offer your completed book to a conventional publisher, they will usually take care of getting the necessary clearances. However if you are self-publishing (either on paper or online) then yes, you would be responsible for getting the clearances - if these were required.

But to summarise, I think that if you are careful not to over-quote, the exception to be found in Section 30 (1ZA) should entirely cover your needs and you won't have to worry about seeking permission.
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rosieorosie
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much for your advice; I really appreciate the time and trouble you've taken. This is a great site; whoever set it up has done the creative industries a great service.
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