fair use copyright

Fair Use Copyright Explained in Carmack’s “Guide”

When you find information in a book, article, or online source and you want to quote or paraphrase it in your genealogy, when must you cite the source? If you quote the information and cite the source, can you use as much of the information as you want? The answers to these questions fall under the copyright principle of “Fair Use.”

According to “The Copyright Permission and Libel Handbook,” by Lloyd J. Jassin and Steven C. Schechter, “Fair use is a privilege. It permits authors, scholars, researchers, and educators to borrow small portions of a copyrighted work for socially productive purposes without asking permission or paying a fee.”

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack addresses these and other concerns of fair use in her book, “Carmack’s Guide to Copyright & Contracts: A Primer for Genealogists, Writers & Researchers.” With this guide in hand, you will be able to determine:

  • What are your rights to your own genealogical discoveries?
  • What can/should you do if someone has infringed on your copyright?
  • When do you need to ask someone’s permission to reprint their work?
  • What are works in the public domain and how to find them?
  • Can someone tape your lecture without your permission?

While the guidelines of fair use are applied uniformly, as Ms. Carmack demonstrates, “the devil is in the details.” Fortunately, you can learn a lot more about the nuances of fair use and other important aspects of copyright law – especially as they impinge on the genealogist – in “Carmack’s Guide.” For example, while it is generally sufficient to cite the source you use, in some cases you must actually request the permission of the copyright holder. Similarly, even though a work may be in the public domain (e.g. the papers of George Washington), if an institution or an individual owns the originals, you may need to obtain permission and/or to pay a royalty fee before you can refer to the work in your family history.

In scarcely 100 pages, the “Guide” gently informs its readers about all aspects of copyright law. Each chapter lays out a specific principle of copyright or contracts and then addresses the topic with situations specifically applicable to genealogists.

Vetted by copyright attorney Karen Kreider Gaunt, “Carmack’s Guide to Copyright and Contracts” is the first comprehensive guide of its kind written expressly for genealogists. For more information on “Carmack’s Guide” click here.

Image Credit: By Columbia Copyright Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in an archived edition of Genealogy Pointers. You can subscribe to receive this newsletter via the signup box on the sidebar of this blog.

 

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