I want to publish a digest or revision guide for an existing text book, which I am not the author of. The book is a historical and social account of various events. So the information shared in the book is not original, however the composition is.
Can you please advise if that is doable and if that would be infringement of copyright for the original book? What disclaimers should be used to acknowledge the information was taken from the original book to avoid any issues of plagiarism or copyright infringement.
Alasdair Taylor's Answer
Yes, this should be doable without infringing UK copyright, although clearly it could also be done in a way that does infringe copyright.
The critical point, I think, is that you should not copy any part of the actual text (as opposed to the underlying information) except to the extent that:
- the total copied text does not amount to a substantial part of the work (ie words and commonplace phrases here and there should be fine); or
- you are satisfied that the defence of fair dealing for the purposes of criticism or review will apply in relation particular quotations from the textbook.
The fair dealing defence is set out in s30(1) CDPA 1988:
“Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism or review, of that or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.”
So, there are three factors here:
- the purpose in question must be criticism or review of a work (in general terms, that would seem to be satisfied here);
- you must provide sufficient acknowledgement; and
- the use must amount to fair dealing.
“Sufficient acknowledgement” requires that you bring the source / author of the original work to the attention of your readers, and standard academic practice should be a good guide to what is required here.
“Fair dealing” does not have a statutory definition, but is more likely to be established if
- your use does not affect the market for the original textbook;
- the textbook publisher will not lose any money as a result of the use;
- the amount of the work that you copy is reasonable and appropriate (eg quoting short paragraphs occasionally may be fine, while quoting whole chapters will usually not be fair).
The importance of these factors varies from case to case.
- these comments focus on text rather than images; and
- I’m not really an expert on the acadamic offence of plagiarism, which is quite distinct from copyright infringement and may cover ideas as well as the expression of those ideas, so I have limited my comments here to the latter.