Thursday, May 22, 2014

Can I Use Poems in My Divorce Book?

Dear Rich: I have been writing book about my divorce experience. Over the last few years my family and friends have sent me inspirational quotes and poems (found on the internet) that have helped me through this difficult crisis. I would like to use/print some of the poems in the chapter entitled "Life, Self Esteem and Spiritual Affirmations" and want to give full credit to the author. I have the titles of the poems, the website, but not the author's name and want to follow the law regarding copyright. I have enclosed a few samples of the poems to clarify my questions regarding copyright and how to find the author and get permission to use their poem.  Sorry, but we don't open email attachments -- we're paranoid we'll catch something -- so we don't know to which poems you are referring. Regarding your questions:
  • Finding the author. Start by writing to the website that reproduced the poem to determine the author and title. You can typically find a way to contact the site by clicking the "Contact Us" button or writing to "info@[domain name]. If that doesn't work search whois.net for the owner of the site. If you can't get a contact, or if your contact isn't responding, we'd suggest placing a large chunk of the poem's text into Google (or whatever search enging you're using). That may turn up alternate sightings that will give you the author and/or title. Once you have that, you should be able to track the poem to find the source for permission.
  • Copyright. Copyright law requires permission unless: (1) the work is in the public domain; or (2) you are using so little of the poem -- for example, one or two lines -- that it qualifies as a fair use. Practically, you are probably not going to need permission unless a publisher expresses interest. If your book is self-published, it's unlikely the poet will learn of your reproduction..

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