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Old 08-12-2009, 08:26 PM   #1
cscarlet
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Can you Quote another piece of Literature?

Hi all

I'm one of the newbies... quick question: Can you quote other pieces of literature in your book, so long as you give the author appropriate credit for his or her writing?

I ask, because in my story I have the scientist-turned-mad scientist. One of his "methods" is that he writes down all of his notes. Mixed in, he has poems, bits of literature, etc.

For example, the end of my first chapter is this:

Satisfied for now, he paused to read the top note on his stack of papers before retiring to bed. The neat black letters scrawling across the page dripped and curled with irony. Fate, it seemed, had found a bit of humor in his life…

Dream-Land
E.A. Poe

“By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule-
From a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE - out of TIME.”
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Old 08-12-2009, 08:32 PM   #2
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Poe's beyond the bounds of copyright (life +75 years), so you should be okay.

Make sure what you use is public domain and not copied by copyright or trademark.
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Old 08-12-2009, 08:35 PM   #3
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What about Frankenstein? I also had quotes from that planned....? I'm assuming the same since life +75 years, but I have seen it published with copyrights by Barnes and Nobles and other classic libraries... (ETA: Even though my quotes I just nabbed from online)
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Old 08-12-2009, 08:50 PM   #4
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"The neat black letters scrawling across the page ..."

If the letters are neat, they can't be "scrawling."

See:
http://education.yahoo.com/reference...y/entry/scrawl


"Hmm... gotta watch
everything..."
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Old 08-12-2009, 09:16 PM   #5
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Good call... I actually just changed that word when I put it up here because I hadn't proof read yet and had "curl" twice in the sentence.... it didn't look right, so I threw in something quick to replace it. I have a feeling my entire "book" is going to be an editor's field day

Last edited by cscarlet; 08-12-2009 at 09:18 PM.
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Old 08-12-2009, 09:59 PM   #6
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In the U.S. anything published prior to 1923 is in public domain. The author's life+75 years is the current statute, and has been in effect since 1998. Older works are covered by the statutes in effect at the time of their publication, with the additional proviso of a 20-year extension of coverage from the older publication date that was enacted at the same time. It effectively freezes the automatic release of material into public domain until 2018, but was not made retroactive. The statutes explicitly state that anything already lapsed into public domain stays in public domain; as of 1998, everything published prior to 1923 had fallen into public domain.

caw

Last edited by blacbird; 08-12-2009 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 08-12-2009, 10:58 PM   #7
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Awesome, well educated responses! ... You guys are the best
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Old 08-13-2009, 01:37 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
In the U.S. anything published prior to 1923 is in public domain. The author's life+75 years is the current statute, and has been in effect since 1998. Older works are covered by the statutes in effect at the time of their publication, with the additional proviso of a 20-year extension of coverage from the older publication date that was enacted at the same time. It effectively freezes the automatic release of material into public domain until 2018, but was not made retroactive. The statutes explicitly state that anything already lapsed into public domain stays in public domain; as of 1998, everything published prior to 1923 had fallen into public domain.

caw
That sucks because the book I want to quote was written in 1948..."He loved Big Brother." The next chapter will start, "And she loved big brother too." But actually, it's a nanny reading to her...maybe if I quote just that one line, it'll be fine? There are published books where there's a classroom setting and people are discussing Fahrenheit 451...and it is long from entering public domain, though I want to write Fahrenheit 452...
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Old 08-13-2009, 01:54 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manectric View Post
That sucks because the book I want to quote was written in 1948..."He loved Big Brother." The next chapter will start, "And she loved big brother too." But actually, it's a nanny reading to her...maybe if I quote just that one line, it'll be fine? There are published books where there's a classroom setting and people are discussing Fahrenheit 451...and it is long from entering public domain, though I want to write Fahrenheit 452...
If the book is going to begin with 'And she loved big brother too' you are not quoting 1984. Fahrenheit 452 is a little more tricky, if it is a sequel to Fahrenheit 451 then you may get in trouble, but if it is unconnected in everything but theme, then you're golden. No Country For Old Men is a Yeats quote, His Dark Materials is from Paradise Lost, book 2.

Of course you can quote literature. About 1/16th of Ulysses is direct references to other pieces of literature (the most obvious being Hamlet and The Odyssey, but thousands of other works are addressed as well), if you include basic themes and elements then it increases to about 1/2.

Just because a book is not out of copyright does not mean it is as sacred as the Jews hold the name of God and cannot be said out loud. You can talk about it, you can reference it, you can even quote it. What you can't do is use massive chunks of it and pass it off as your own.

An example: whilst I was writing one of my rambling, weird, theology filled bangsian fantasies I listened to "Shakey Dog" by Ghostface Killa, which has the lines

Made my usual contact
Safety off, come on freak
The moment is here,
Take your fucking hood off

Now I think there is real poetry to these lines. So I have a character saying "The moment is here, TAKE YOUR FUCKING HOOD OFF" whilst suggestively cocking a gun. I sincerely doubt this is plagarism. I think if nothing else I'm covered for parody.

Last edited by Kurtz; 08-13-2009 at 02:31 AM. Reason: TYPING IS FUN
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Old 08-13-2009, 02:20 AM   #10
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Even if something isn't public domain, you can quote it. I used someting from Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun in my first novel, which is not a public domain work.

Just keep in mind your contract with your publisher will stipulate that you're responsible for getting permission to use the quote (from the author or his/her publisher).

In the case of Johnny Got His Gun, it wasn't clear who I needed to contact. I sent three or four fruitless letters before finally finding the correct publisher -- this took three months; responses can be slow -- but when I did it was quick and painless. So don't let something being under copyright protection stop you. Just be prepared to do some letter writing in order to obtain proper permissions.

EDIT: This does not necessarily apply to song lyrics. I got permission for the Trumbo bit for free. I just explained the context and the word count and everything was fine. But I have heard of folks charging a lot of money for the right to use song lyrics.
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