Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Creating a Book of Public Domain Quotations

Dear Rich: I've noticed that there are a lot of quote books about Abraham Lincoln, Confucius, Albert Einstein, and other famous folks. If I wanted to write my own quote book for a famous person who lived before 1923, what is the best way to go about making sure I don't get sued? I'm so glad you asked. As Confucius says,"The cautious seldom err." You appear to be aware that 1923 is the magic year for the public domain. In the U.S., everything published before then is free to reproduce. Therefore, according to the Dear Rich staff (and the U.S. Supreme Court), the only way you will run into a problem using pre-1923 material is if you copy somebody else's original selection and organization of similar quotes. If you're not clear about all this -- like Confucious says, "The people may be made to follow, but they may not be made to understand," -- then check out Steve Fishman's great book on the PD.