Monday, November 14, 2011

Quoting a Book on Your Blog

QUESTION:  I am interesting in posting a few paragraphs from a book I just read on my a synopsis of the book. I want to post about a paragraph from each chapter.  Is that legal? Of course, I would cite the book and author, etc. and make it clear that these are not my words, but the author's.
First, let me clearly state that I am not a lawyer of any sort so my advice won't protect your rear in a court of law.
Using quotes like you want to do is done all the time.  It’s considered fair use of copyrighted material.
 Whether the publisher or author contact their lawyers depends on how easily p*ssed off the author and publisher are and how high profile you or the content/author are.  
In other words, if the NEW YORK TIMES quotes to summarize an important new book about a major political figure before or soon after the book is published so that the reader need not buy it, all legal hell will break lose.  
If you want to quote a few paragraphs in a book about writing that's been around a bit, I doubt anyone will call their lawyer although you may receive an email from the author requesting you remove the material.  As a courtesy, you should.
Methods of citation vary from the footnote style you learned in high school to the more casual method where the information about the book is included within the body of the work --
EXAMPLE: As John Exum Smith said in A BUNCH OF NONSENSE ABOUT WRITING, "Writers are the silliest creatures in the universe because they believe others will want to pay them for their imaginings."
If you are using the summary in a positive manner such as you are recommending the book, you are far less likely to run afoul of legal problems.  If you are pulling all the "meat" out of the book stew so others won't have to buy the book, you are much more likely to have a seriously angry author after your head.
All this advice really comes down to the Golden Rule.  If this were your book, would you want someone else to summarize it as you intend?
For more information on fair use, I suggest this blog article: