commercial book based around quotation

Tracing copyright owners and asking permission.
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Deepsky
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commercial book based around quotation

Post by Deepsky » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:27 am

Hi there, I have a question about the level of copyright attribution / ownership related to (possibly) a derivative work.

I am planning on writing a commercial book of philosophy, using a short quotation from someone that I have read in another book ( the 70 year period has not yet passed ).

The contents of the book will be based around my own experiences and ideas linked to interpretations of the quotation, which will be the only part used from the other book.

The quotation I intend to use in my book is not an exact duplicate of the original, but remains largely the same as far as word structure goes.
It isn't a well known quotation, was not a major aspect of the original work and was not intended to be used in the manner that I will be using it ( that's not meaning I intend to use it in a negative way ).

I intend to attribute the author as the original source and inspiration.

I was wondering if you might have some advice regarding the level of copyright here.

Is there any? Or because my book's content will be 95% my own, do I hold onto that much of the rights? Or does it go the other way and the original source maintains the majority?

I realise this might only be answered by a specific investigation, but I was hoping you might provide some general insight to give me some idea of where I might stand.


Many thanks.
DS

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Wed Oct 27, 2010 6:31 pm

Hi Deepsky,
If I have understood you correctly you intend to use this quotation, fully attributed, as a framework from which your own original writing will follow. Assuming that quoting is short and entirely relevant to what you then have to say, I think this use shoould fall within the permitted actions of criticism and review. Section 30(1) says:
"30. Criticism, review and news reporting.
— (1) Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism or review, of that or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement and provided that the work has been made available to the public. "

Exactly what constitutes 'criticism' and 'review' is not spelled out in detail in the Act, but this exemption does tend allow a greater volume of a copyright work to be quoted, because it is required to give the criticism/review a proper context. Criticism here does not mean just negative criticism, but also 'academic analysis'. You mention that the passage you want to quote has been published so that meets the other criterion apart from the acknowledgement.
Assuming that this description accords with what you intend to do, then you should be alright. But as you have noted, this is not a licence to over-quote the original. If you feel this exemption doesn't adequately cover what you want to do, it may be advisable to contact the author of the original if he is still alive (or his heirs/publisher, of not) for permission to use part of his work in this way.
You would own full copyright in your work.That includes the part you quote, meaning that the original author would not have any claim on the proceeds etc from your work, unless he was able to establish that there had been infringement.
Two final points. You mention that you don't intend to use an exact duplicate of the words found in the original. Whilst it is acceptable to leave out irrelevant bits which should be marked by elipses [ ... ], I would be cautious about paraphrasing in case this leads to a distortion of what the original author actually wrote. This could amount to "derogatory treatment" of his work and infringe his moral rights, contrary to section 80.
The second point is that you say this is to be a commercial work. If you find a publisher for you work, they should sort out the legal aspects and get any clearances on your behalf, prior to publication. Obviously if you intend to self-publish, you do need to consider these steps yourself.

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Post by Deepsky » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:55 am

Thankyou for your detailed advice.

I agree that it seems to fit my approach, and I believe as I you suggest, that I may end up contacting the publisher just for their feelings on the matter as well.

Could I trouble you a little more to clarify which country's copyright laws apply if the book I am quoting from originates from a different country ?

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Post by AndyJ » Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:23 am

Different countries implement copyright domestically on slightly different ways, for instance in having different terms for how long copyright exists. But these things are becoming more harmonised, especially within the EU. Most major nations have signed up to one or both of the two main international treaties on copyright: the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention. One of the principles which both of these embody is reciprocal enforcement. In other words a French or American author can expect his work to be protected in the UK according to UK law, and vice versa. So the fact that you may be using the work of a foreign author does not fundamentally change the situation as far as you are concerned, even if, for instance in his country there may not be the same dispensation for criticism or review.
There are a small number of countries whose copyright regimes the UK legislation does not recognise. but they are very minor players. For instance there are about 164 signatories to the Berne Convention, and many of the non-signatories will have joined the UCC.

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Post by Deepsky » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:24 am

Yes, that makes sense.

Thanks again for your help.

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