How Confusion & Lack Of Clarity In Copyright Law Make Reviewing Poems Difficult

from the can't-quote-this dept

techinabox alerts us to a short NY Times piece by David Orr, in which he notes yet another problem with copyright law, in that publishers are afraid to publish reviews of poems that actually dare to quote the poem, because it might be considered copyright infringement. At issue is that it's not clear what would be considered fair use in quoting a poem -- especially a short one. There are different theories about what's okay, but those theories don't seem to fit well with certain poems. Orr gives an example of a one line poem, and notes that quoting just 5% (a standard some suggest) would mean quoting 2 letters. As Orr notes the whole thing is an "incomprehensible system," and most publishers won't touch anything that might be interpreted as infringing, because they just don't want the headache of a legal battle.

Of course, quoting for the purpose of reviews should be fair use. The US Copyright Office itself uses:
"quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment;"
as an example of what qualifies for fair use. But, tragically, the "excerpts" part of that standard is unfortunately vague, and it limits what people can do.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    blaktron (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:16pm

    Why shouldn't the standard then simply be "could be construed as an excerpt" instead of "must prove implicitly that it is an excerpt"?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:36pm

    That its all good, people should only be allowed to review open culture and not commercial crap.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:37pm

    One can only hope that copyidiots that firmly believe in their "rights" to not allow others to copy or distribute their works get what is coming to them and that is being ostracised by the rest of society.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:40pm

    http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/related-materials/codes/code-best-practices-fair-use-po etry

    You will never get an objective standard for fair use any more than you will get an objective standard for what is reasonable. Not everything in life admits to the specificity some seem to demand.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:40pm

    Every joint, website or web-platform should just outright forbid standard copyright material that don't use a liberal license to be shown, every single one of those places should just force people to use CC Commons just to cover their asses from future litigation threats.

    Did people noticed that in some countries Youtube now has a license feature that lets you search for CC Common works?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:48pm

    This also points to the need of a central database of sorts to say who owns what and what is copyrighted and not.

    That central database should be paid for by copyright owners that should have to renew their copyrights every 10 years to get full protections of the law. The price of that should be based on a fixed minimum and a dynamic price based on earnings and whichever is higher should be charged.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 11:04pm

    Copytards already charge everyone with levies including in the US, people should just pirate what they want it is already being paid if you use it or not.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 11:09pm

    Is copying a game for political satire criminal or should be protected as political speech?

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/09/12/tech/angry-birds-satire-politics/index.html

    Could NinjaVideos use the same defense, I don't know but would be interesting to see where that leads, it surely will open up a very interesting debate since politicians will need to balanced their freedoms against copyright law.

     

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  9.  
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    DandonTRJ (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 11:43pm

    Reminds me of the human cannonball case. A news program broadcast 15 seconds of Zacchini's act to comment on it (classic fair use), but the Supreme Court denied the defense because the 15 seconds constituted too much of his act. Talk about overextending intellectual property to prop up a business model.

     

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  10.  
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    mike allen (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 12:06am

    I assume the one line poem would be a small part of a larger publication, therefore quoting the one loin poem would be fair use when criticising the whole publication.

     

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  11.  
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    mike allen (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 12:08am

    grrr too early in the morning i ment line not loin. sorry

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 12:19am

    http://gigaom.com/mobile/mobile-operators-will-lose-voice-services-to-mobile-platforms/

    Explosion of networks coming soon to a city near you.

    Entertainment industry screams like a girl and pull its hairs out after discovering that the new gatekeepers are Google and Apple.

    ROI for old telcos and entertaiment industry disapears, while Google launches Google Pictures LLC.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 1:11am

    Would a form signed by the client saying that he owns the copyright suffice to dispel any doubts that the printing establishment did everything it could to fallow the law?

    Of course copytards would never agree with that, but what the law says in America?

    If copytards really want everybody to enforce their laughable laws they will need to give people some tools to do so, is there a place where people can do a search to find out if some material is infringing or not?

    Establishments now need to consider everything copyrighted and not print anything how much money is not circulating in the economy because of that, and according to a few very dishonest people that is enough to claim irreparable harm to the whole of the economy like the numbers from the MPAA.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 1:12am

    Poets Are Free To Fix This

    Poets could simply make themselves available to reviewers and provide permission (in writing, natch) for any quotations. Poets who decline to do so, get to suffer continued obscurity. Alas, this policy still leaves academic reviewers, who wish to be comprehensive, in difficulty. There exist talented poets who are unable to give permission due to them being dead. How many poets are gong to mention giving permission to reviewers in their will?

     

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  15.  
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    btrussell (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 2:47am

    Fair use means you have to ask for permission.
    http://www.copyright.com/content/cc3/en/toolbar/education/resources/copyright_basicsthe movie.html

    It isn't too bad until nearing the end.

     

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  16.  
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    Nicholas Alexander (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 2:58am

    Reviews are generally welcome

    As a person who writes an excessive number of poems which I generally publish for free, I appreciate genuine reactions.

    Now if I published a book of poems, I would consider it perfectly fine for one poem to be quoted in full as a fair use in a review, or a few lines of up to three works. Any less than that, and there is no context. Any more, well they are republishing my works and I would expect payment for it. But I would rather be reviewed than ignored.

    It is a bit like those song lyric websites - they are effectively republishing copyright works but it generally benefits the author.

    Compare this with a film review that tells the plot of the film - now that is a very significant violation.

     

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  17.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 3:09am

    Re:

    A one line poem is too short to qualify for copyright.

    (c) 2011

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 4:31am

    Techdirt = copyright & patent whining?

    Is techdirt able to report on anything except whining about patents & copyright? There are other things to report on...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    freak (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 4:57am

    Well, I've already stated my viewpoint.
    If you ever come across my poetry? Do whatever you like. Laws besides copyright exist to catch those exceptional cases where I should care.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 5:32am

    I don't think there is anything wrong with the law as it stands. It allows plenty of leeway, while still requiring both sides to use their brains a little.

    Would you prefer a hard and fast 1% rule Mike?

    Should we adjust the overall, pretty much functional laws in order to accommodate a very small percentage of all cases where people can't manage to understand the law?

    I think the answer is always the same: If you cannot be sure what you are doing is legal, just don't do it. Call the rights holder, and ask permission. Don't just assume.

    There. You don't have to fix the law, you just have to fix your attitude.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Zot-Sindi, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 6:08am

    Re: Techdirt = copyright & patent whining?

    if it's not your concern it's whining, no matter how legitimate a concern it is

    law of human nature

     

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  22.  
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    Zot-Sindi, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 6:11am

    Re:

    you just have to fix your attitude.

    ask permission

    hmm... okay! let's start

    in order to troll this website you must ask for permission from the admin, which i assume is mike

    oops! what's that? you didn't ask him if you could troll this article? well, i hope you're happy, freetard, you've just infringed on the trollright of this site

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 6:11am

    Re: Techdirt = copyright & patent whining?

    If you are bored you can always not come here can't you?
    Or are you afraid that people will take some decision and catch you with your pants down?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 6:22am

    Re: Techdirt = copyright & patent whining?

    I know! I've been reading this site for YEARS waiting for news about Justin Bieber and Ontario politics, but they just keep talking about these weird economic and legal topics. If only there were other news sources on the internet!

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re:

    I already asked permission. It is clearly stated that my comments (any comment except for clear spam) is accepted.

    Did you ask your mom permission to use the computer on a school day?

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 7:09am

    Re:

    Fair use means you DON'T have to ask for permission. That's the point of it. If you ask permission then its authorized use, and there would be no need for fair use.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Jay (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re: Techdirt = copyright & patent whining?

    There's other places to go for NEWS?!

    I'm going to read Fox for their brilliant analysis on "how to lose customers and influence piracy" today!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 7:56am

    Re:

    I think the answer is always the same: If you cannot be sure what you are doing is legal, just don't do it. Call the rights holder, and ask permission. Don't just assume.

    What if the work is older than 30 years? And you cannot find the right's holder?

     

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  29.  
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    Nick Mc, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    One Line Poem

    Surely a one line poem isn't so much a poem as it is a sentence.

     

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  30.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    Re:

    Are you sure that the snowflake icon you're using is legal?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 8:40am

    Re: One Line Poem

    That was beautiful - you should publish a collection ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re:

    I'm not using it, Mike is forcing it on us. Ask him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    freak (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Techdirt = copyright & patent whining?

    I prefer Mike's collection on "How to Lose Piracy and Influence Customers".

    Much more insightful :p

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 9:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Forcing it on you? You're not forced to comment - you choose to. Just like somebody who chooses to embed a video they find on YouTube. Before you commented - or for that matter, before you read anything on the site - did you check to make sure Techdirt isn't full of infringing material? Because if it is, then you're liable. So are you sure? Did you check?

     

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  35.  
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    cryptozoologist (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    feel free to quote this verse i wrote about the lede i did just read.

    when quoting verse, one must be terse
    lest lawyers seek to raid your purse
    allegedly to reimburse
    the author, but not really.

     

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  36.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 2:53pm

    5% excerpt from an Ogden Nash poem:

    "God"

    Actually it's slightly lower than 5% since 64 isn't evenly divisible. After all, I wouldn't want to rob Mr. Nash of his duly owed wages by quoting 4 characters.

    Oh wait... he's been dead for 40 years. Still, present copyright laws will encourage him to continue to produce for at least another 30 years. Meantime, we're not allowed to quote him, except for fair-use excerpts.

    I'm sure you can see the man's cleverness and wit from this excerpt. Enjoy!

    P.S. Here's an excerpt from another Ogden Nash poem:

    ""

    Sorry, 5% of that one is less than one character. Let's see who can quote the entire poem first!

     

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  37.  
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    kamikyo, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 9:22am

    There's an opportunity in there...

    I wonder how long it would take to publish a series of one line poems containing every grammatically correct and understandable sentence that could be used?

    Or better yet, just a list of the most commonly used sentences about, say, I don't know...copyright protection? Then publish that collection as a volume of poetry, and send out cease & desist letters to anyone who dares publish and infringe on one of your works.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    Just chris (profile), Sep 17th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    Frack them all and who gives a frack! Oh did I just break some copyright law since Frack is synonymous to Battlestar Galactica? It is so dam hard to tell any more!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    Just chris (profile), Sep 17th, 2011 @ 2:27pm

    Re:

    Point is even lawyers don't know 5% of all laws and have to do a lot of research for each case they have in court. So how are we the little people to know them all. What ever happened to keep it simple stupid? Like the 10 commandments!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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