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the Editors' Association of Canada
By Lenore d'Anjou
But it's easy to be overscrupulous. There's no need to refuse to
use material when doing so would be ethical and legal.
Many such situations exist. For example, you never need permission
to use information or ideas. What's under copyright is the "fixed
form" of information (in written material, the words in which
it is expressed). So you need reprint permission only for direct
quotes and for paraphrases so close to the original that they could
have come from nowhere else.
Nor do you need reprint permission for all direct quotes and paraphrases.
The doctrine of fair dealing justifies use of extracts without permission
so long as the material used does not represent a substantial portion
of the work quoted. Unfortunately, neither the Copyright Act nor
any Canadian court has defined what substantial means here, but
the key seems to be relative length: one line of a haiku might be
judged substantial, but a total of 900 words from a 950,000-word
book probably wouldn't.
In Canadian Copyright Law (1995), Lesley Ellen Harris quotes
a 1972 court decision: "To take long extracts and attach short
comments may be unfair. But, short extracts and long comments may
be fair. After all is said and done, it must be a matter of impression."
Harris's book is not light reading, but it should be on every Canadian
editor's bookshelf. And for a practical overview of U.S. copyright
law -- quite different from Canadian in some respects -- see the
New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage
Another issue goes hand in hand with copyright concerns. If you
use material from another source, respect for the original author
and courtesy to the reader require documenting where it came from.
But, here again, it's easy to go overboard.
Scholarly studies, in contrast, require careful documentation.
But the format is less important than the content. The goal of any
citation is to give readers enough information about the source
to check it themselves if they want to. The Chicago Manual of
Style (1993) offers 213 pages of detail on the two reference
systems it recommends. The Modern Languages Association and the
American Psychological Association each have their own style. So
do a variety of health and hard-science groups. Do not get hung
up on any of these conventions. They differ mostly in punctuation,
use of abbreviations and order of some information.
Strict adherence to a style guide can be invaluable when an editor
is facing hundreds of notes and a next-day deadline or when a multi-author
or periodical format demands consistency from a variety of editors.
But in the absence of specific instructions, you can often use any
format you want as long as you stick to it consistently.
Just remember the basic information the reader needs:
You may add other useful information (e.g., the French title of
a bilingual publication, an organizational series number, etc.,
For a piece that's part of a larger work, such as an article in
a multi-author book, you add the name of that larger work and any
general editor. And for a piece that's been in a periodical (a journal,
magazine or newspaper), you include the name of that periodical,
its volume number and/or issue identifier (i.e., number, month or
season) and the date of publication.
All the other possibilities -- from unpublished letters to court
cases to Web sites -- can fit within these templates, more or less
tidily, if you keep in mind what a reader would require to find
For the editor, two important questions are essential:
Is it legal and ethical to copy this?
If the answer to the first question is yes, what information does a reader need to find the source?
For more information about the Editors' Association of Canada/Association canadienne des redacteurs-reviseurs, see their listing in Sources.
Published in Sources,
Number 43, Winter 1999.