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Bulkowski's Copyright

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Written by and copyright © 2005-2019 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information. Some pattern names are the registered trademarks of their respective owners.

This article explains the meaning of copyrights.


The following was taken from the Author Guidelines of John Wiley & Sons, with their permission. The document is used to help authors write their books to make sure that they obey the copyright law. Since several people have taken information from my website and books illegally, it's worth a review of the law as of 9/27/2012.


It is your responsibility to obtain written permission to use third-party copyrighted material. As an author yourself, you want other authors to respect the copyright in your work by getting permission, crediting your work and paying any appropriate fees when they use your material. Also, if your published work includes material copyrighted by third parties for which you did not obtain permission, you could face legal action for copyright infringement. The copyright holder has recourse to several remedies through the courts, including suing for fees and damages. It is even possible that all copies of your work would be taken off sale immediately, impounded or destroyed.

Although the copyright statute and court cases call for a fact-based, case-by-case analysis to determine whether use of third-party copyrighted material requires permission, it is not realistic or practical to assume that all authors are aware of the legal parameters. Hence, industry practice has resulted in a consensus on guidelines reflected in this advice. These guidelines apply whether the source material is old or recent, as long as it is in copyright. They apply whether the source material is in print or in electronic form, and whether reuse changes from one format or media to another. However, there are special issues that relate to new media noted below.


Material that Requires Permission

As a general guide, permission is more likely to be needed if the source material is short or the excerpt you wish to use represents a significant portion of either of the work in which it's found or in which you intend to use it. Also, any material that constitutes or represents the heart or key elements of the source material, such that your use could possibly serve as a substitute for the original, will also require permission.

Permission should always be secured for:

  • A single quotation or several shorter quotes from a full-length book, more than 300 words in total.
  • A single quotation of more than 50 words from a newspaper, magazine, or journal.
  • Artwork, photographs, or forms, whether or not from a published source. Sometimes more than one permission is required for a photograph, e.g., from the photographer and from the creator of the underlying work shown.
  • Charts, tables, graphs, and other representations where you are using the entire representation, since the copyrighted features are complete in themselves and inherent in the whole work.
  • Material which includes all or part of a poem or song lyric (even as little as one line), or the title of a song.
  • Computer representations, such as the depiction of results of research on computerized databases, the on-screen output of software, reproduction of web pages, and the capture of Internet or other online screen shots. (For small and insignificant portions, fair use may apply; see description below). If, however, a website invites or authorizes copying and there is nothing to indicate it contains material which is original to others and therefore would require permission from the original source, then permission is not needed.
  • Third-party software to be distributed as an electronic component of your work.
  • Use of materials from your own previously published works.

You are also responsible for securing all other required clearances, including permissions for the use of trademarks and releases from privacy claims. For example:

  • A release may be required for photographs or reproductions of specific brand-name products and for use of trade names and logos.
  • You may need releases for photographs of people, especially private citizens. This is particularly necessary if it will be used on the cover or in part of the promotion of the work and does not specifically illustrate material in the text.


Material that Does Not Require Permission

The copyright law recognizes the value of the free flow of information in society and encourages authors to expand knowledge by building on the work of those who wrote before them. Copyright does not prevent the use of facts or ideas, but only the author's expression, which, as discussed below, is more than just the words, or pictures. In addition, even when material is protected by copyright, there are situations where permission to reproduce is not required.

Fair Use

"Fair Use" is a legal term; do not assume it will permit use of third-party copyrighted material just because such use seems "fair" to you. Generally, a use will constitute "fair use" if minimal, commercially insignificant portions of an existing work are copied, quoted or paraphrased for purposes of comment, criticism, illustration or scholarship.

In a commercial context, the doctrine of "fair use" is quite limited. If you are in doubt about whether your use of copyrighted material is considered fair use, you should request permission.


Generally, you can use material from an interview you conduct, including direct quotes, without securing a signed release if the circumstances and their notes clearly reveal that the source knew you were conducting an interview for possible publication and did not indicate intent to restrict use of the material. Otherwise, you should ask the interviewee to sign a release.

Facts, Information, and Ideas

Generally, you may use facts and information obtained from another work. However, this does not permit you to use the author's original literary expression, which includes, for example, more than just the words or the specific lines of a drawing.

Copyright encompasses the format, organization, sequence and style of presentation as well as the sense or feeling of the original. When paraphrasing from another work, even if permission is not needed because the author is paraphrasing a very limited portion of the source, the author should always give credit to the original source. The author does not need to credit well-known concepts or theories or strictly factual information, however, as long as they are expressed in the author's own way.

Public Domain

Permission does not need to be obtained for materials that are in the "public domain." This includes all official U.S. government publications as well as materials for which the copyright has expired.

The copyright expiration date is often difficult to determine. It is safe to assume that anything copyrighted in this century is still protected. Modern translations of older works are also protected, as are photographs and other portrayals of public domain images. Other materials may be in the public domain because they were published without a notice of copyright at a time when such notice was required to preserve copyright. Once again, this is hard to determine. Some material is intentionally and explicitly made available to copy or use, such as "clip art." Clip art includes standard line drawings that are available in books and on disks and are classified by subject area (sports, animals, etc.) specifically for free use in other publications.

-- Thomas Bulkowski


See Also

Written by and copyright © 2005-2019 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information. Some pattern names are the registered trademarks of their respective owners. If you buy land in an earthquake zone, it'll be your own fault.