Friday, August 14, 2009

Editing Tip #8: Fair Use

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2009

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


Copyright law is written to encourage the growth of knowledge while at the same time protecting those who further the growth of knowledge. You use a book to gain knowledge; an author publishes a book to earn money. You would not purchase a book if you could not use the information in the book, but an author could not publish a book if he could not earn money for his time and effort. "Fair Use" is the concept within the copyright law that weighs the delicate balance between use and protection.

Fair Use is based on the following criteria:
Purpose of the use (commercial or private)
Nature of the work
Amount and substantiality of the portion used compared to the copyrighted work as a whole
Effect of the use on the potential market for, or value of, the original.

Determination of Fair Use is weighed by looking at how the work is used, how much of the work is used, and how the use affects the value and potential sales of the original work. Fair Use frequently comes into question when determining what portion of a book might be quoted or used for reviews, criticism, education, and research.

Other than private in-home listening and playing, Fair Use of music is extremely limited.


All requests for permission to reprint should be sent to the copyright holder in writing and in duplicate. The request should contain the following information:
· title of the original work, including page number(s) of the material to be reprinted
· information about the publication in which the author wishes to reproduce the material: title, approximate number of printed pages, formal publication (clothbound book, paperback book, journal, etc.), publisher, probable date of publication, approximate print run, and list price (if available).

The copyright holder will either sign and return to the author one copy of the request or will send the author the copyright owner's standard form. In either case the person responding to the request should state clearly what fee is demanded for the proposed use and what special conditions apply. The second copy of the permission form will be retained in the copyright owner's files. The requesting author should give the original to the publisher and keep the third copy for his or her reference.


Whether or not the use of others' material requires permission, an author must provide the source of such material. Whenever you quote or paraphrase the idea of another person, you must provide a proper citation for the source in a bibliography or footnote to (a) give credit to the author or creator and (b) enable a reader to locate the source you cited. Providing references for authoritative sources lends credibility to your work. If you do not give credit to the work of others, you are committing plagiarism.

The Chicago Manual of Style states that commonly known facts, available in numerous sources, do not need to be enclosed quotation marks or given a source citation unless the wording is taken directly from another work. For example, "Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865" does not need a footnote.


NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this
publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the
author. To request permission, please e-mail



Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network ( and the Christian Editor Network ( To find out more, please visit

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