[LMB] OT: picking a scene

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Tue Sep 6 23:01:46 BST 2011

>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.

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

John: Perfectly true, but I'm asking what law you have in mind. The US 1976
Copyright Act that legally established Fair Use does not specify any word
limits. If your statement of a 250-word limit is correct, I presume that
limit to have emerged from a case or cases, of which I am ignorant. Hence --
a reference, please, or a source of some kind.

This is a vital professional matter for me, and if I have missed a judgement
effectively defining the limit of Fair Use as 250 words it's very important
that I remedy that error. Thanks.

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)
Director of Studies in English, St Catharine's College

General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs

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