Monday, December 28, 2015

Using Prayers in Romance Novel

Dear Rich:  I recently published a romance novel (as has everyone apparently). I used some liturgical prayers in it, and cited the source on the book copyright page, but I never got permission. Does the citing of the source of material obviate the need to obtain permission to use it? Citing source material -- always an honorable gesture -- is not a defense to copyright infringement. The good news is that most liturgical prayers are in the public domain (as are most traditional prayers). Some, more contemporary twentieth century prayers are still protected under copyright. The general rule is that any prayer, first published in the U.S. before 1923 is in the public domain and is free for you to use. Of course, using a portion of a copyright-protected prayer may also be excused under fair use principles -- and we are inclined to believe that a prayer used in a romance novel is a transformative use.