Do I need permissions to cite other people's work in my book?


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Thread: Do I need permissions to cite other people's work in my book?

  1. #1

    Do I need permissions to cite other people's work in my book?

    Hi Everyone:

    I have just written a New Age book with 95,000 words. I am a little confused with regard to whether I need permission or not to cite other people's work. Someone who reviewed my proposal suggested that I would need to get permissions from all of the authors whom I cite. I have 175 discrete external references in my book. They are appropriately referenced, whether paraphrased, or when appropriate quotations are applied. I have a more scholarly approach so I know how to cite people. It would be daunting to get permission from every reference... in fact, well nigh impossible.

    Please let me know what the conventions or legalities are in such an instance. 175 permissions make no sense to me, but maybe I am wrong. She claims that because I am seeking to make money from the book, that is, because it is a commercial venture (not scholarly) I must get permissions unless the citations are from the public domain.

    Thanks,

    -Charles

  2. #2
    Supervisor velo's Avatar
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    I've never heard this particular view. Citing a source generally protects you from plagiarism or copyright infringement unless you use so many direct quotes it forms a substantial portion of the book content. I am writing a book and cite many scientific and non-scientific sources. I cite each one and only use direct quotes (formatted as such) sparingly. I am absolutely hoping to make at least a little money from my book...ugh, that means I actually have to write it....

    I think this person that reviewed your book needs to cite her source. As always, get a second opinion from someone who should know, i.e. a publisher. I'm not a publisher so take opinion for what it's worth but I think your reviewer is full of hot air on this one.
    "Don't fuck with writers, we will describe you." -unknown

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  3. #3
    The reviewer's fulla beans. Citation is plenty. I'm a journalist -- I cite people in my column every single day. Quotation marks, attribution, and you're good.
    Hidden Content
    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  4. #4
    Thanks both. I appreciate your responses. That's what I figured. It is part of the normal dissemination of information and knowledge. I am not sure where she got her information. All I know is that i am relieved!

    -Charles

  5. #5
    When it comes to copyright, I'd recommend getting advice from an IP lawyer. It costs, but getting it wrong can cost so much more.
    "You don't wanna ride the bus like this,"

    Mike Posner.

    Hidden Content

  6. #6
    That seems like sound advice. Posters in another site said the same thing. What I don't understand is, are there not specific rules which everyone must follow? If there are, why are they not clearly delineated somewhere? Would not a publisher know exactly what rules a book must follow?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by charley5 View Post
    That seems like sound advice. Posters in another site said the same thing. What I don't understand is, are there not specific rules which everyone must follow? If there are, why are they not clearly delineated somewhere? Would not a publisher know exactly what rules a book must follow?
    There's very little need to consult an intellectual property lawyer. The rules are clear and easily understood as far as citations. Quotations, attribution, correct fidelity. If the publisher wants to consult an IP lawyer, let them foot the bill.
    I quote people every damn day of my life.
    I'm also an editor and publisher and it's seriously a non-issue if you follow the rules -- which are easily available to a casual googling. Here's a good document to read:

    http://www.u.arizona.edu/~rlo/482/plagiarism.pdf
    Hidden Content
    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by charley5 View Post
    Hi Everyone:

    I have just written a New Age book with 95,000 words. I am a little confused with regard to whether I need permission or not to cite other people's work. Someone who reviewed my proposal suggested that I would need to get permissions from all of the authors whom I cite. I have 175 discrete external references in my book. They are appropriately referenced, whether paraphrased, or when appropriate quotations are applied. I have a more scholarly approach so I know how to cite people. It would be daunting to get permission from every reference... in fact, well nigh impossible.

    Please let me know what the conventions or legalities are in such an instance. 175 permissions make no sense to me, but maybe I am wrong. She claims that because I am seeking to make money from the book, that is, because it is a commercial venture (not scholarly) I must get permissions unless the citations are from the public domain.

    Thanks,

    -Charles
    You don't need to get permission from all of the authors whom you cite so long as you are citing them correctly. You can't copyright facts.

    Not a lawyer nor a non-fiction publisher, but I've written academic papers.

    Let's go with some common sense on this: It would be impossible for any non-fiction book to be produced without citing outside sources. That's how credibility works - through citation. Non-fiction books that lack any reference to outside data are usually garbage.

    Generally speaking so long as you are (1) Quoting the source's words and data faithfully and accurately (2) Attributing it accurately (the Vancouver system is probably better if there are a lot of sources to cite - otherwise you can use parentheses) and (3) Using it responsibility (not using a Harvard medical school study to push an anti-vax agenda, for instance) you don't have to worry*.

    An area you may run into trouble is if you are referencing creative work - i.e something that goes beyond facts. For example, if you decide to quote song lyrics as part of an argument in favor of, I don't know, the Illuminati building the pyramids.

    In that situation you are using somebody else's work in a non-academic context (even if it's an 'academic' book) and that could be a problem. But I assume you are strictly using science (or pseudo-science, at least!) and in such a case it is impossible to have copyright because, again, you can't copyright a fact. The author of a study that determines cigarettes cause cancer cannot copyright their findings (that cigarettes cause cancer) because that's a perennial truth.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by charley5 View Post
    Hi Everyone:


    Please let me know what the conventions or legalities are in such an instance. 175 permissions make no sense to me, but maybe I am wrong. She claims that because I am seeking to make money from the book, that is, because it is a commercial venture (not scholarly) I must get permissions unless the citations are from the public domain.

    Thanks,

    -Charles
    Thank you for asking this question. I learnt something important. I had similar doubts too.

  10. #10
    Moderan, thank you extremely much for that citation. It proved to be very helpful. But it raises a couple of questions for me:
    (1) The reference says that simply rearranging words is plagiarism, even if you reference them. But there is a fine line between paraphrasing and re-arranging. How far do you have to paraphrase them (and reference them) for it not to be considered as plagiarism?
    (2) What if two people have the same idea and there is only a limited number of words one can use to express it. Is there a risk of being accused of plagiarism?

    Luckyscars, your post was very useful! Yes of course, citation adds to credibility. For instance in the metaphysical / New Age field, I wanted my references to show that I was not the only one who had reached certain conclusions. Interesting what you say about not being able to copyright facts. The implication is that because I am indulging in a commercial venture (as opposed to a scholarly one) I have a different obligation and should seek permission. I don't believe that's the case. In fact, it makes no sense to me, because proper citation should be applied no matter the circumstances, and standards of what constitutes plagiarism should not vary depending on the motivations of the author. The people who tell me to go speak to an IP lawyer are likely doing it to protect this site or themselves, and I respect that. But I consider it overkill.

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