Book Podcast legal question.
June 25, 2007 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Say I did a five minute podcast about books (promoting new titles or backlist I love), could I read a small section of the book (less than five minutes worth) without getting permission?
posted by drezdn to Law & Government (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
IANAL, but as i understand, a small portion excerpted for review purposes should be considered Fair Use, especially if there's no exchange of money involved.
posted by pupdog at 6:21 AM on June 25, 2007

IANAL either, but the figure you hear in the world of education is up to 20% of a work for fair use.

Certainly, having done a number of book reviews, I know that excerpting chunks of text to quote is standard practice.

However, if you're reading a really long chunk of a book - and five minutes on a radio/podcast format is extremely long - you wouldn't be reviewing the book so much as presenting it. In a review, the critical function is the most important.
posted by Miko at 6:27 AM on June 25, 2007

Search for "fair use" +"book review" yields a number of good hits, such as Stanford's, which says:
"1. Comment and Criticism

If you are commenting upon or critiquing a copyrighted work--for instance, writing a book review -- fair use principles allow you to reproduce some of the work to achieve your purposes. Some examples of commentary and criticism include:

-quoting a few lines from a Bob Dylan song in a music review
-summarizing and quoting from a medical article on prostate cancer in a news report
-copying a few paragraphs from a news article for use by a teacher or student in a lesson, or
-copying a portion of a Sports Illustrated magazine article for use in a related court case.

The underlying rationale of this rule is that the public benefits from your review, which is enhanced by including some of the copyrighted material."
posted by Miko at 6:30 AM on June 25, 2007

the figure you hear in the world of education is up to 20% of a work for fair use

... which is, unfortunately, a figure pulled out of people's butts that has no legal relevance. See if you can find local legal aid to give you some advice (call up the law school at UW, perhaps?), or review some online summaries of fair use and make a call yourself. E.g. the Copyright Office's Fair Use circular or the Stanford Fair Use Project.
posted by rkent at 6:33 AM on June 25, 2007

Yes, that's why I said "the figure you hear." I wasn't able to substantiate it, either. As with many FCC regulations, the law is not sharply prescriptive on fair use - it's reactive, decided on a case-by-case basis using judgement. The "twenty percent" thing I would say is not total crap, just a rather safe estimate of how much credited use of a work you could make before your chances of being challenged legally became very high.

Here's a good page on fair use and Rules of Thumb.

Certainly the use drezdn is talking about is completely kosher, though.
posted by Miko at 7:22 AM on June 25, 2007

could I read a small section of the book (less than five minutes worth) without getting permission?

Sure, as folks have noted, that's what fair use is for. As you think about how much to read, keep in mind the very small likelihood of anyone attached to the book finding out, and the very large likelihood that all that would happen if they decided to care is that they'd ask you to take the podcast with their excerpt in it down. And chances are, even in the rare case where they'd go that far, you'd still almost certainly be within your legal rights and they'd be over-reaching. That's just the way these things seem to work.

Keep the excerpts short - 2-3 minutes to read a few scenes is my personal guess - and in the context of a review and you'll be fine.
posted by mediareport at 8:18 AM on June 25, 2007

[IANAL, but I do work in publishing and I occasionally deal with rights issues. However, none of what I do deals with audio.]

Fair use is less about length than it is about the nature, content, and context of the use. There have been cases where people were found liable for quoting just a few hundred words and other situations where people were not liable for much longer selections. Length does matter, though, given the context. Five pages of a 200-page novel and one 5-page short story out of a 1,000-page anthology would be evaluated differently, with the latter more likely to be found foul use.

These are the four basic questions:
  1. what is the purpose of the work, and is it intended for commercial or noncommercial purposes?
  2. what is the nature of the work?
  3. what is the the amount and importance of the portions used in relation to the work as a whole?
  4. what is the effect of the new use on potential markets for the original?
If you're reading from these books simply as a means of entertaining your audience by using someone else's copyrighted material and providing no commentary of your own, that will be interpreted differently than if you're reading a portion of the book in the context of an evaluation or review where the content (the review) is merely being supplemented by the quoted work. Likewise, whether you're making money from it and whether it might be seen as creating market competition for the publisher's audio book, for example, are all relevant points.

You should evaluate what you intend to do in this light and determine whether you feel strongly that the use is fair. Consulting a lawyer would almost certainly be a waste of time -- if you really want to cover yourself, write to the publisher(s) and ask permission.
posted by camcgee at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2007

Since your podcast is about promoting the books you like, then you would be reading excerpts for the purpose of showing off the good bits and building interest. This is a lot less likely to attract a cease-and-desist letter than a podcast lampooning books you dislike. The author would have to be a moron to sue you for reading a short excerpt and saying nice things about it.

That being said, there are a lot of morons in the world.
posted by happyturtle at 10:49 AM on June 25, 2007

I think the 20% figure that you hear in the world of education is based on the educational photocopying licenses schools all seem to have, which allow students/teachers to reproduce up to 20% of a book for educational purposes without paying the copyright holder. I don't think it relates to fair use.
posted by SoftRain at 6:16 PM on June 25, 2007

educational photocopying licenses

I've never heard of this in my work in education. Can you find a source about a 20% figure cited in educational licensing?
posted by Miko at 7:12 AM on June 26, 2007

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