[Edited to add: if you visit Jane's blog for Copyright Day here, you'll find that at the end she's added stacks of links to other people who blogged on the topic. It's a fabulous resource.]
That was ten days ago. Since then, there have been developments. On November 16th, the CooksSource editor, Judith Griggs, issued another statement, here. It actually makes me feel sorry for her, and there is a real apology in there. However, there's a tell-tale sentence which shows a continued lack of understanding of copyright. In her explanation of how she came to use the piece written by Monica Gaudio without permission, Ms Griggs says: "Bleary-eyed I didnt notice it was copy written and reordered some of it. I did keep the author’s name on it rather than outright “stealing” it, and it was my intention to contact the author, but I simply forgot, between proofreading, deliveries, exhaustion." I do accept that mistakes can be made, especially when one is doing too much, but the thing is that even with the author's name it in, this was still as much "stealing" as if the name wasn't there. It's still not right. And this thing about not noticing that it was "copy written" .... There is nothing to notice. We should assume that if we didn't write it, we can't copy it, unless we are quoting a small section under the terms of fair use.
Then, yesterday, November 18th, I heard that CooksSource announced that it is closing down, blaming the author who rightly complained that her copyright had been infringed and her work used without permission, so I guess I'm right that they have not understood the issue.
However, I was horrified, as Jane and other decent people were, by the spewing of hatred against Ms Griggs, the CooksSource editor. I despise such ugly and threatening reactions: they are uncivilised, disgusting and morally wrong in every way. They do nothing to aid the cause of copyright, intellectual property right or civilisation.
So, I have decided not to rip to shreds Ms Griggs' statement. It would be too easy and probably someone else will do it anyway. Actually, I did, but I deleted the whole thing. I would rather someone read this to learn about copyright than to read about an editor's embarrassing misunderstanding of it.
The laws of copyright are not simple, but they have a simple core: to protect the creator’s right to earn, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Article 27.2) “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”
The laws do not seek to stop people referring to the work of others to inform their own work or for comment; but they do seek to stop people unfairly profiting from the original work of a creator by using it instead of their own. So, you are allowed to quote from a piece in order to inform or explain your own work, as long as you properly credit the writer and the source of the quote. This is called Fair Use or Fair Dealing, which allows people to quote a small amount of material without permission. Otherwise, no one would ever be allowed to quote anything from an in-copyright work. This bit of the law is hazy because no one can define the size of quote that it’s acceptable to use. If in doubt, ask permission.
It's not just editors who need to know this: it's authors, too. We may find ourselves contravening copyright if we quote too much without permission or if we fail to credit the source properly. So, let me put it as simply as I can:
COPYRIGHT FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO GET IT RIGHT
- If you want to reproduce someone’s work, you must ask permission if the work is within copyright*. Ask the author, who will tell you if you need to ask the publisher. (In the UK, copyight in written work lasts for 70 years after the author's death, NOT 70 years after the work was created. If the author died within the last 70 years, contact the Society of Authors, who will help you work out who holds the rights.)
- If you want to quote snippets from someone’s work to illustrate a point you are making, you should be allowed to do so without asking, under the terms of Fair Use / Dealing, as long as you quote with 100% accuracy, credit the author’s name and the source of the quote, and put it properly in context so that you do not demean the work. (This ruling is in place to allow reviewers, essayists, commentators etc to be able to comment with references.) If you're worried that you may be quoting too much, ask. Song lyrics are copyrighted, by the way, and you cannot (without permission) use even a small phrase from a song lyric if it's obviously a reference to it. For example, you could not use phrases from Beatles songs as your chapter headings. But, as you'll see here, song titles are not covered.
- If you want to copy something you find on the internet, the same rules apply, but you might also find something called a Creative Commons Licence. (See the bottom right hand corner of this blog.) This will tell you what the author has allowed you to use and in what circumstances.
In short, if you want to use someone's work, you must ask. They may very well just say Yes and not ask for money, depending on the circumstances, but you still are required to ask. Remember that old school-yard adage: borrowing without asking is theft.