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Q: legal issues regarding use of previously published material ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: legal issues regarding use of previously published material
Category: Arts and Entertainment
Asked by: saabster-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 31 May 2003 07:57 PDT
Expires: 30 Jun 2003 07:57 PDT
Question ID: 211119
I recently ran across an article written in the 1930's for a now
defunct magazine.  The topic of the article provides critical insight
to a book I am writing. I am interested in using key quotes from this
article as headings for chapters of the book. The author of the
article is deceased and has been for years. Does he own this article
or does the magazine? If he is the owner,can you tell me whether I
have to request permission from the author's estate or am I able to
simply quote from the article acknowledging the author, date, mag,

I cannot tell you the name of the author or the article and would
prefer not to tell you the name of the magazine unless it is essential
for you to be able to answer these questions.  I found the article in
an store selling old magazines and it contains such important
information on the subject of my book, I don't want to reveal anything
about it if it is not critical to obtaining an answer to my question.

What are the potential legal liabilities if I use this material in the
manner described?  What are the legal issues a book agent or
publishing house might have with my use of extensive quotes from other
published material?
Subject: Re: legal issues regarding use of previously published material
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 31 May 2003 09:04 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Saabster-ga,

Sound like you came across an interesting find.  As to its status, I
can give you some general guidance, but you'll have to do some
additional digging on your own, since only you know the details of the
article name, author, etc.

Works published in the 1930's were initially protected by copyright
for 28 years.  So...the original term of copyright has long expired
for that article.  If the copyright was *NOT RENEWED*, then that's the
end of the story -- you can reproduce as much of the article as you
care to, in any way you feel like.  It would have no copyright

HOWEVER, if the copyright was renewed for a second term, then the
article is likely still under copyright protection, since the length
of the copyright terms was extended from 28 years to almost a full
century (can you believe it?) by changes to copyright laws.

So...what's the status of your particular article.  You can conduct a
search of the US Copyright Office database at:

Note that there are different search databases:  one for books, one
for magazines, etc.

The Copyright Office also makes available a detailed guide on how to
effectively search for an existing copyright in its document "How to
Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work (Circular 22)", available
at the same link.

And if you want more details about the length of copyright protection
for various works, you can find a description here:

which includes links to even more detailed documents, if you're so

Lastly...and perhaps most importantly...even if the work *IS* under
copyright protection, you are still entitled to what is known as "fair
use" of the material, as described at the following link:


How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?

Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is
permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for
purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly
reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific
number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a
work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all
the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21,
Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.


Note that there are links at the above site to documents that describe
"fair use" in greater detail.

I hope this is the information you were seeking.  If anything here
needs elaboration, just let me know through a Request for
Clarification and I'll be glad to assist you further.

search strategy:  None--made use of existing knowledge of copyright
saabster-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks for providing other sources that will allow me to supplement
your excellent response to my inquiries.

There are no comments at this time.

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