Sunday, January 24, 2016

What's Considered Fair Use?

By: Stephanie Burkhart 

Do you want to frame a chapter of your novel with a quote from a poem? A lyric? A photograph? What’s considered “fair use” and what’s a copyright violation? I thought I’d discuss some of these issue on today’s blog.

Several examples of fair use include criticism (a book review), or using the material in a classroom setting. There’s no set definition, but courts usually apply the following criteria to “fair use:”

#1 The nature of the work. If you’re using it for educational, nonprofit use, most courts would say it’s fair use.

#2 The portion used in relation to the whole work. With poetry and lyrics one 4 line stanza might be considered a substantial part of the quoted work and that would be infringement.

#3 The effect of the use. Is it a low percent? Then it’s fair use.

#4 Do consumers want to check out the original or does your work replace the original? If it replaces the original media, then it’s infringement.

BUT! I’m quoting from a book in the public domain!

Public domain, simply, is a work not covered by copyright law. So how do you know it the media you’re quoting from is in the public domain?

Public domain, simply, is a work not covered by copyright law. So how do you know the “work” is in the public domain?

Answer: If an author has been dead more than 70 years, or if the work was created a 120 years ago and the author’s date of death is unknown.

What about using photographs or illustrations? They’re protected by copyright so the same considerations are used. Photos on the web or published on the web aren’t free just because you can download them. If you’d like to use photos without fear of copyright infringement you can use your own or go to sites like Dreamstime or Fotolia and pay to use their photos.  Some photos on those sites are free, but most are inexpensive.

Most music is copyrighted and if you’re making a book trailer, you’ll need permission to use it. Kevin MacLeod at Imcompetch is a great source of music for book trailers. All he asks for is that you give him credit for using his music in the ending credits.

Question: Have you used a quote, poem, or lyric in your writing? Why?

Reference for this blog: "Your Guide to a worry free writing business," complied by Jessica Strawser, Writer's Digest, FEB 2016, pages 35-38. 

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She enjoys reading, chocolate, and likes coffee. She’s also a den leader for her son’s cub scout den. Her books with 4RV publishing include: The Giving Meadow, Brady’s Lost Blanket, Joseph’s Cradle, and First Flag of New Hampshire.

Book Trailer for First Flag of New Hampshire:








  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What about those images on Google that are labeled for use? I heard or read that it was okay to use those on a blog.

  3. It gets even crazier when you put a link up online, for a blog, for example. Often, a picture in the blog will pop up automatically. I'd guess that would be okay as long as you mention it's from that blog. You'd have to hope the person who did the blog got permission to use that picture, though.

  4. Thanks for the helpful tips, Stephanie.

  5. Wonderful information. I find this to be so murky. I've heard of people who used images on a blog who got in trouble but then there are others who don't. I always err on the side of caution!

  6. Linda, you're welcome. Morgan, I agree, I'd guess that would be okay as you mention the blog. Melissa, I think it's murky, too, but ultimately I believe not only content (which if used we all understand would be plegerism (sp?) but images are, too. The majority of people don't push the issue, mainly, I think because they want to get their agenda out. When I do my Christmas and new year's photo essays, I always link back to the original site, but honestly, I don't know if that's enough to give them the credit. I suppose it's one thing to give credit and one thing to ask, right?

    I recently saw a blog where a blogger took an image of a simple green pepper off the internet and used it. Well the photographer reached out to her and wanted $750.00 for using the image. When she didn't pay it, the photographer's lawyer demanded $7,500.00 in damages. This is the article:

    My advice: Use images that you are confident using and are pretty sure aren't going to cost you. If you need to use an image, you can always go to sites like dreamstime and fotolia and purchase a image for just a couple of bucks - well worth it. Most of the images I use in my book trailers are purchased from those sites.

    If in doubt, I would say research before you do.