[LMB] OT: Picking a scene

Peter Granzeau pgranzeau at cox.net
Tue Sep 6 16:56:00 BST 2011

At 07:48 PM 9/5/2011, John Lennard wrote:
>Pete: I would avoid anything currently in copyright.  "Fair use" usually is
>limited to 250 words or less.
>John: Pete, I'd be interested to know your source/authority for the figure
>of 250. My understanding -- with reference to the US only, 'Fair Use' being
>a term promulgated only in US law, by the 1976 Copyright Act -- is that
>there is neither any statutory not accepted practical definition of the
>wordcount Fair Use allows.
>Court decisions have found various things *not* to be Fair Use in the first
>place, but I am not aware of any decisions that (i) agree Fair Use *could*
>apply but that it has been exceeded, and (ii) involve quotations of less
>than 1,000 words -- i.e. all the decisions of which I'm aware concern
>plainly excessive quotation
>In practice, the suggested limit of 250 words is certainly exceeded very
>widely and frequently, on both sides of the Atlantic, without incurring any
>legal action, professional censure, or commercial hostility.

Not getting caught ain't the same as obeying the law, of course. 

>In the UK, BTW, the equivalent of Fair Use is a voluntary agreement between,
>IIRC, the Society of Authors and a consortium of publishers, and specifies
>that reasonable free use shall not exceed (i) a single passage of 400 words
>or (ii) a series of passages totalling not more than 800 words, the longest
>being no more than 300 words, or (iii) 25% of the work as a whole (meaning
>that if it's a sonnet you can have 3.5 lines for free, but for 4 or more you
>gotta pay, or at least offer to pay).

Regards, Pete
pgranzeau at cox.net 

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