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Is Re-telling A Story From A Book A Copyright Violation?


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#1 RisaBB

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 12:11 PM

Hello,

I heard a man speak on Friday and he told an incredibly beautiful story and I asked him if I could re-print his story on my website. He told me that the story was based on speaking to the people involved and a book that he read.

Is it a copyright violation to publish a re-telling of a story if credit is given to the authors?

Thanks,

Risa

Edited by RisaBB, 12 May 2008 - 12:12 PM.


#2 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 12:51 PM

Tough one. Probably, yes --- although it could well be that both you and the speaker could be held liable for the violation; it's hard to say.

Better safe than sorry --- you should get written permission from every person who may have copyright claim on the story.

#3 Respree

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 01:25 PM

My rudimentary understanding of copyright law is infringement centers around the concept of "unauthorized use" of original material. To me, giving the original author credit does not constitute permission. I think if in doubt, its always safer to err on the side of caution and simply obtain permission first.

Edited by Respree, 12 May 2008 - 01:26 PM.


#4 RisaBB

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 02:05 PM

Thanks for the responses. Do you think it's copyright infringement even if it's the re-telling of a true story of a little known event that happened? Probably but just want to ask again.

Risa

#5 bwelford

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 02:23 PM

I think, Risa, that Joe and Garrick gave you good advice. However, I tend to take a little more risk. I always like that quotation, "Forgiveness Comes Easier Than Permission".

Sometimes it's very difficult to track down the owner of the copyright. So if you quote something and give the author's name, then I think that's a reasonable approach. If it's only a short passage, then that's allowable anyway. The other thing to remember is that the ideas themselves are not copyrighted. It's only the text that is being used to set them down, that is copyrighted. So if you express the ideas in your own words, you don't have a problem.

#6 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 02:45 PM

If it's only a short passage, then that's allowable anyway.


Fair use principles generally relate to the amount of the original work used (proportionally) and the purpose of use. For-profit usage where a large portion of the work is copied falls on the probable violation side; small excerpt with no profit motive is likely to be acceptable.

The other thing to remember is that the ideas themselves are not copyrighted. It's only the text that is being used to set them down, that is copyrighted. So if you express the ideas in your own words, you don't have a problem.


Putting ideas in your own words is _usually_ safe --- but, again, it's a matter of proportion. Taking a book and rewriting it in your own words is still a probable copyright violation; the concepts are copyrighted as part of the critical creative elements of the story. It's not actually just the literal words.

Finally, even if you may be given approval in a court case (and copyright violation cases are very complex because the rules are highly interpretive), the legal proceedings could still be difficult.

Every single copyright situation is unique, since it's a set of laws governing the rights of use on creative work --- the parameters for use and work are highly variable, and interpretation is a key element of the laws.

Edited by joedolson, 12 May 2008 - 02:48 PM.


#7 Respree

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:03 PM

I'll have give the standard answer. Seek the advice of an intellectual property attorney for complete peace of mind. :)

I think the 'spirit' of copyright is to prevent someone from taking original works and representing it as their own. I'm not sure if simply giving credit to the author is enough to break that spirit.

Having been on the wrong end of threatened litigation 10 times over the past nine years, I understandably lean toward the more conservative side. Luckily, none of them ever went to court and I never had to pay any settlements, but will say when you get a letter from an attorney, your day gets ruined.

#8 RisaBB

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:14 PM

Thanks, guys. Let me be a little more specific and tell some of this beautiful story.

About 10-15 years ago, Israel carried out a clandestine operation - "Operation Solomon." They went into Ethiopia and rescued thousands of Ethiopian Jews from refugee camps and brought them by ship to Israel.

On board, hundreds of people waited on line to see the ship doctor. There was no triage set up. A mother had a 6 year old child who was dying and more serious than the rest, but had to wait on line anyway. An Israeli soldier saw the grave situation and cut the line and carried the girl to the doctor. She was diagnosed with meningitis and would die before morning.

The soldier insisted that a helicopter evacuate the girl to Israel. The doctor refused to issue this order, but the soldier insisted, and the matter was brought to the captain. The captain was adamant that this request was impossible - they were in enemy waters and it was too risky. Still, the soldier insisted. A cable was sent to Israel, where it was brought to the attention of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who said that he wishes that he himself could fly the helicopter, but in his stead, he sent a helicopter with 5 fighter planes to save the girl's life.

Part of this story was told from the mother's perspective who couldn't believe that a country would place such a value on one young child's life, when in Ethiopia, life was so expendable.

The man who re-told this story heard this story first-hand from the captain of the ship, and from a book about the Ethiopian exodus.

So, what do you think? Is it copyright infringement to re-tell and summarize a true story? I like Barry's answer, but maybe that's because it's the answer that I want to hear.

Risa

#9 SEOigloo

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:31 PM

I really can't see how it would be copyright infringement to summarize something in a book - after all, that's what a book review is and Amazon.com has billions of them.

If it were me, I'd credit the book, credit the speaker and say you found this story inspiring and were recommending that others buy the book and attend the speaker's engagements.

I just can't see anything wrong with that, but others may see this differently.

Very moving story, Risa.
Miriam

#10 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 08:15 PM

That's a very unique and special story. Especially in this time of tragedy in Burma, where bureaucracies and dictators are playing with millions of lives, I was really inspired to read this story.

I agree with Miriam's comment. I think it's good enough to give credit to the speaker from whom you heard it, the people who were involved, and a link to the book that used the story. If the mother involved, or the people directly involved in the story (the girl herself, or the soldier) had written the book, it might be a different situation. But if not, then they are also, in fact, just "borrowing" the story from real life, and their actual words are copyright, but the essence of the story is not their copyright.

#11 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:17 PM

Summarizing is definitely not a problem. Copyright violation is more related to either a) complete or partial exact reproduction or B) substantive conceptual use presented as your own (plagiarism).

A simple summary of a story shouldn't even begin to be a problem, as long as you're presenting it as the original author's.

#12 Ron Carnell

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:20 PM

What you're essentially talking about is called "news," I think? :)

One can't copyright news. One can, however, copyright the coverage of news (the words used). You can tell any news story you like, so long as you don't infringe on someone's copyright.

There's a potential danger, however, which you should probably understand. If there are any inaccuracies in the story, and you repeat those inaccuracies as "your" perspective on the news event, you'll probably find yourself walking on very shaky ground should someone decide to sue. Put another way, if you're going to report the news, it pays to verify, verify, verify. That's just one of the reason why responsible reporters (and their editors) insist on a minimum of two sources.



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