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MrChantastik
02-28-2006, 09:42 PM
Hello, this is my first post here...I have recently finished a memoir project with another writer and both of us have used horoscopes from nationally syndicated sources throughout the memoir. My question: do I need to obtain permission from the astrologers or can I get away with just citing the source of the horoscopes (ie. Washington Post, etc.)? There are numerous articles out there that seem to lift quotes and whatnot from other articles and they seem to get away with it without being sued as long as they cite the source. Would the same rules apply? Do horoscopes fall under public domain? I would really prefer to not get permission because if one or more astrologers say no, it will have a huge, negative impact on our book, possibly barring it from any chance of being published. Any advice you can give would be deeply appreciated.

Thanks!
Michael

Aconite
02-28-2006, 10:03 PM
There are numerous articles out there that seem to lift quotes and whatnot from other articles and they seem to get away with it without being sued as long as they cite the source. Would the same rules apply? Do horoscopes fall under public domain? I would really prefer to not get permission because if one or more astrologers say no, it will have a huge, negative impact on our book, possibly barring it from any chance of being published. Any advice you can give would be deeply appreciated.
There's a difference between "public domain" and "fair use." It's unlikely the horoscopes are public domain. It's possible that what you're planning to do could fall under fair use, however. To be abolutely certain, talk to a lawyer with experience in intellectual property law about the details of what you're planning.

I'm afraid that your worry that refusal from one or more of the astrologers would have a negative impact on your book does not justify not asking for permission if that's what's legally required. Inconvenience isn't a reason to violate someone's legal rights. You'll have to find a way to work within the limitations of your project.

Good luck!

PattiTheWicked
02-28-2006, 10:39 PM
To some extent, it depends on how much "quoting" you're actually doing. If your text reads:

"I checked the Washington Post's horoscope section and was startled to find that according to the stars, I would be either hit by a bus or sold into white slavery in Antigua this afternoon."

then you're not really quoting, you're just paraphrasing. On the other hand, if you say:

"According to the Washington Post horoscope of June 12 1993, it was my day to "start new friendships, mend fences, and sell that albino sea monkey collection that had been languishing in my bathtub," or at least that's what Madame Zousa said."

then you may run into a need for permissions. Just because something appears in a newspaper doesn't make it public domain. I write for a local paper which gets delivered to about 150,000 people, and periodically we find that members of local political groups will use one of our articles on their website -- soemtimes even our photos -- without asking permission. Usually a friendly, "Hey, guys, that still belongs to us" is all that's needed, but people seem to think that just because it's in a newspaper means it's availabel for the taking. That's not the way it works :)

As to your hoping permissions aren't required because someone might say no, first of all, this strikes me as fairly irresponsible on your part. Just because it might inconvenience you, you don't want to ask for permission to use something that doesn't belong to you. If your book depends so heavily on other people's material that without it the book might not "have a chance of being published", then perhaps you need to rework the entire thing so that it's a bit more original.

Just my nickel's worth, of course. YMMV.

MrChantastik
03-01-2006, 02:19 AM
"Inconvenience isn't a reason to violate someone's legal rights. You'll have to find a way to work within the limitations of your project."

No, no, no...I wouldn't dream of violating someone's legal rights on this matter; I would simply not pursue publication of the project if doing so meant violating anyone's rights...but I do appreciate your advice, and will be researching the matter accordingly...thanks! :)

MrChantastik
03-01-2006, 02:43 AM
"As to your hoping permissions aren't required because someone might say no, first of all, this strikes me as fairly irresponsible on your part. Just because it might inconvenience you, you don't want to ask for permission to use something that doesn't belong to you."

Hmmm...I guess I gave the impression that I simply wanted to steal from people. My bad for not making myself clearer. Being responsible would mean asking about what's legal before pursuing publication of said work, which I did today, in this forum. I honestly didn't know the rules and asked about them here. If enough folks on this board wrote, "I use horoscopes from the newspapers in my books all the time, and as long as you properly cite the authors/sources, you won't get sued," then I would have assumed the practice was legal, ethical and "good-to-go" as they say...Sorry for the bad first impression, folks; it wasn't my intention to appear thief-like...

"If your book depends so heavily on other people's material that without it the book might not "have a chance of being published", then perhaps you need to rework the entire thing so that it's a bit more original."

I thought about that as a back-up plan. But the co-author isn't too thrilled about going back and drastically revising her half of the book (she's a good friend but only has a passing interest in writing...I was impressed she wrote as much as she did, but going back just isn't an option) so I'm kind of stuck between the rock and the hard place. If I can't legally use the works without permission and I fail to acquire their permission, this manuscript will simply be exiled to the nearest not-so-full junk drawer. If it's to be, it will be, and if not, well, there are always other stories to tell.

Thanks for the advice, y'all

Jamesaritchie
03-02-2006, 08:31 AM
Hello, this is my first post here...I have recently finished a memoir project with another writer and both of us have used horoscopes from nationally syndicated sources throughout the memoir. My question: do I need to obtain permission from the astrologers or can I get away with just citing the source of the horoscopes (ie. Washington Post, etc.)? There are numerous articles out there that seem to lift quotes and whatnot from other articles and they seem to get away with it without being sued as long as they cite the source. Would the same rules apply? Do horoscopes fall under public domain? I would really prefer to not get permission because if one or more astrologers say no, it will have a huge, negative impact on our book, possibly barring it from any chance of being published. Any advice you can give would be deeply appreciated.

Thanks!
Michael

Have you ever seen anyone quote a horoscope and give the source? It's no different than using someone else's short story without permission. News and horoscopes are very different things, and even with news, fair use allows only very limited quotes. If you use someone's copyrighted material without permission you can, and probably will be sued.

Information is never copyrighted, but the specific words used in anything are always copyrighted. What you're doing almost certainly does not constitute fair use. And fair use only allows snippets under certain conditions, never complete reproducing of an article.

At best, you might get away with quoting only a sentence or two from the horoscope. if you cite the source. Definitely no more than this. If you want to do more than this, you'll have to paraphrase.

Put yourself in teh place of the writer. How would you like to see others profit from your hard work?

If you didn't write it, don't use it. This is doubly true of such things as horoscopes. Unless the writer of that horoscope has given permission, the wording of that horoscope usually cannot be reproduced or otherwise used.