Yes, Authors Have Copyright Issues With Quoting Others As Well

from the the-sampling-problem-is-back dept

We were recently writing about how there seems to be a massive double standard when it comes to "sampling" in books vs. music. But that was really only focused on fiction books. When it comes to non-fiction, it appears the story is a bit more complicated. Author Marc Aronson recently took to the pages of the NY Times to complain about how copyright is massively stifling non-fiction works, due to the difficulty of getting permission:
The hope of nonfiction is to connect readers to something outside the book: the past, a discovery, a social issue. To do this, authors need to draw on pre-existing words and images.

Unless we nonfiction writers are lucky and hit a public-domain mother lode, we have to pay for the right to use just about anything -- from a single line of a song to any part of a poem; from the vast archives of the world's art (now managed by gimlet-eyed venture capitalists) to the historical images that serve as profit centers for museums and academic libraries.

The amount we pay depends on where and how the material is used. In fact, the very first question a rights holder asks is "What are you going to do with my baby" Which countries do you plan to sell in? What languages? Over what period of time? How large will the image be in your book?
Much of his concern is how these costs will multiply in an age of ebooks, but it seems like a serious enough issue from the start. Just the fact that authors who are discussing and building on the works of others are being blocked due to copyright is hugely problematic. In this context, it hardly sounds like the new works would act as substitutes for the old works at all -- but could actually drive more interest in those original works. It's difficult to see why or how copyright policy makes sense in these cases.
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Filed Under: authors, copyright, quoting, sampling

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  1. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), 10 Apr 2010 @ 12:38am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Why should a picture of a long-dead blind guy and his guide dog be blocked? Who is this copyright holder, and why does he have any legal rights to claim a copyright stranglehold forty years after the photo was taken and published in a major newspaper?

    I'm curious about this and would like to do some more research. I'm wondering if it is a copyright issue, or a matter of interpretation of copyright on the part of this particular paper, or is something they do as a matter of policy, etc.

    I just did a Google search and couldn't come up with anything other than a way to unblock photos that have been blocked.

    Do you, by chance, have the wording that explains why the photos are blocked? Or even a link to the archives so maybe I can play around with it a bit?

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