I want to set up a new website where I'm planing to post content from different mystics/spiritual authors(most of them dead). The content is from various sources but most of them from books that I bought from amazon. The important thing is that I'll be posting only particular parts of books (grabbing parts ranging 1-5 pages) per topic. I wouldn't like to post a reference to the book. Is this legal? I'm wandering because most of these authors which I plan to post died before the age of the internet.


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    It would depend largely on the copyright status of the works in question. Obviously you can't claim a copyright of your own on works from others. Feb 16, 2013 at 20:02
  • I'm not intending any copyright. The books contain writings, sayings from these authors. All I want is select my preferred ones and post them, unedited.
    – user23424
    Feb 16, 2013 at 21:33
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    You're in the lawyer zone. StackExchange isn't a source for legal advice. Research would need to be done on the copyright status of each work, who the copyright holder is, whether it has expired and negotiations with the current copyright holder if it proves to still be under copyright. Feb 17, 2013 at 3:15

3 Answers 3


Normally in this day and age the publishers of books are the ones with the copyright holders and not the author. It might of been different back then so its worth checking.

My person opinion is most publishers will not mind as long as your not CITING the entire book and in some way promoting their book but this doesn't make it legal.

Staying on the right side of Copyright Law

If you want to stay on the right side of the law then the correct way of proceeding is simply message the copyright holders and seek permission to use snippets on your site. I imagine you would have some postive effect with this as books are completely different than video and the greed in the movie industry is far greater than that in the Book industry.

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    I'm not sure most publishers would let 1-5 pages of the work posted without any summary or commentary on the work slide. Plus if you catch a troll like Right Haven then copying a couple of paragraphs would make you liable to get sued.
    – elssar
    Feb 17, 2013 at 1:53

I am not a lawyer, but posting 1-5 pages without any commentary on them seems a lot to me. There was this copyright troll Right Haven that would sue even in the case of fair use. Luckily the company is no more.

Any advice on this question would largely depend a lot on where you're from and the local copyright laws there(though it would be a good idea to generally not violate any US copyright laws online).

But in general there are a few things you could do -

  1. Check whether the work is in the Public Domain. This could be as easy as checking the copyright notice in the book. In my copy of Calculus Made Easy by Silvanus P Thompson, the copyright notice only covers the cover art design, not the contents of the book. You could also do an online search to check the copyright status of the work.
  2. Research fair use laws in your region and try to stick to them.
  3. Research the copyright holders of the work and check their litigation record online. This, you should do, if you're paranoid enough, even when you are dead sure you're in the right side of the fair use exemption.
  4. And if the work isn't in the public domain, and what you want to do isn't covered by any fair use exemptions, try contacting the copyright holder asking for permission.

Short answer: that's illegal.

Long answer: that's illegal, but how likely do you think it is the copyright holders (not necessarily the authors) will pursue you for copyright infringement?

The tricky bit is if/when you decide to stick ads on your site. Are you making money off their copyrighted intellectual property without any kind of licence in place to compensate them? Is your site a purely hobbyist site with no ads and consistently loss-making? That can sometimes sway a decision.

I would err on the side of caution. It's a civil offence in most places, but it's still a serious one which can carry significantly punitive statutory penalties.

NB: not every country has fair use or commentary laws (UK being a good example), so blogger emptor on all of those. I think the best thing you could do if you are going to include lots of copypasta from published books is at the very least liberally link through to their pages on Amazon etc, with lots of suggestions to buy them.

For me, the tipping point between acceptable and unacceptable when verbatim quoting another source is when you get to about 200 words, but that's purely subjective.

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    I'm not really sure that saying "that's illegal but you may not get caught" is a valid answer. Feb 17, 2013 at 12:48
  • It's a truthful and accurate analysis of the copyright environment we work in at the moment. It's up to the question asker as to whether they heed my advice to err on the side of caution, right before I state that it's a serious offence which carries rather harsh penalties in most civilised countries. Blogger emptor. Feb 18, 2013 at 15:25

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