Cool Public Domain Image: Cloud to Ground Lightning in Las Cruces, New Mexico


From Wikimedia Commons:

This image or file is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain in the United States.


NaNoWriMo and Thanksgiving: Yikes

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  It's also November 23rd, which marks the last seven days of National Novel Writing Month.  With the NaNoWriMo challenge, you commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  A full novel in one month.

As for why I'm dedicated to doing NaNoWriMo again this year, well .... right now, it's a very good question.  Yikes, yikes, yikes.

But I return to my reasons, as I shared them with you this year, Dear Reader


Seven Days Left: Will I Finish my 50K Word Count?

And, I'm okay on word count.  I'm close to 38K and that means I'm on track to win this thing as long as I don't slack off between now and November 30th.

But, yes -- tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Yikes, yikes, yikes.

If this were trial prep, I wouldn't fret one bit.  I'd do it without thinking I might fail to meet the goal.  If this was a client's project or a publishing deadline, I would not be concerned one iota.  It would be done on time. 

The Big Reward From This Year's NaNoWriMo

So, why am I pondering the possibility that I might not finish NaNoWriMo this year?  Well, Dear Reader, this is one of the lessons that NaNoWriMo teaches me. 

As a writer, I need to be my first and best client.  I shouldn't prioritize my stuff over my clientele, but I should not consider my work as less important just because I'm writing it for myself.

I thought I had mastered this -- but nope.  But I'm gonna.  Maybe is the big reward that comes from this year's NaNoWriMo. 


Cool Public Domain Image: Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong

Louis Armstrong restored

Photo of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, Jazz Trumpeter

This is an image uploaded to Wikipedia from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c27236.

It is considered one of Wikipedia's "Featured Pictures," as one of the finest images shared on the site.

Public Domain Image: Gift to the Library of Congress

From the Library of Congress:

  • Title: [Louis Armstrong, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, playing trumpet]
  • Date Created/Published: 1953.
  • Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver.
  • Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-127236 (b&w film copy neg.)
  • Rights Advisory: No copyright restriction known. Staff photographer reproduction rights transferred to Library of Congress through Instrument of Gift.
  • Call Number: NYWTS - BIOG--Armstrong, Louis "Satchmo"--Orchestra Leader [item] [P&P]
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print


Quotes and Copyright: When Is It Okay to Use a Quotation?

Quotes are great!  I love them; bet you do too, Dear Reader.  Thing is: sometimes it’s fine to use a quote – but not always.  

Even if a quotation only involves a few words, it can still be protected by copyright law.  (Sometimes by trademark law, as well.)  And if it is legally protected, then the author owns them.  The quote is his or her property.  Use it, and you are stealing that property from a federal perspective.

So, when is it okay to use a quotation?  Here are a few tips and things to consider:

Public Domain Is Your Best Resource

Any written words that have past their copyright expiration date are considered to be in the “public domain.”  The copyright has ended by the terms of the federal copyright laws.  The author no longer has property rights to the quotation.

The key here is to make sure that the quote is, indeed, free from copyright.  How to do this?

Well, you can confirm via the age of the quotation.  Anyone who has been dead for at least 100 years, you are pretty darn safe to use their stuff.  People like William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, or Plato, for instance.

But this isn’t always true.  Take versions of the Holy Bible.  Not every translation is free to use and in the public domain.  The King James Version:  yes.  The NIV: nope. 

Another example: Agatha Christie published her first novel in 1920 (The Mysterious Affair at Styles), and the Estate of Agatha Christie is vigilant about protecting her legacy – including quotes from her books and plays and letters.  Plus, her work is protected by the copyright laws of the United Kingdom as well as the United States.  

Some Quotes Are Not Copyrighted

Not every quotation gets copyright protection under federal law.  Slogans for example aren’t copyright protected.  Some short phrases, ditto. 

For more on these exceptions to the rule, read:  Copyright Protection for Short Phrases – Rich Stim,” by Mary Minow on the Stanford University Copyright and Fair Use blog. 

Fair Use of a Copyrighted Quotation

Fair use is an exception to the protection of copyright and allows use of the copyrighted words.  Under the fair use doctrine, you can use a small excerpt from a published work without the author’s permission – if you are using it for certain purposes.

These include a review of the overall work (book, novel, play, etc.); a parody of the work; or for an educational purpose. 

Fair use is tricky.  Each case must be determined on its own circumstances.  Be careful here. 

It Doesn’t Matter if the Quotation Has Been Published or Not

Copyright law does not apply only to works that have been published and shared with others.  Unpublished work is also protected by federal copyright laws.  

What If You Want to Use a Quote that is Copyright-Protected?

To use a copyrighted quote, just ask.  Maybe you will be pleasantly surprised and the owner will be touched, even complimented, that you appreciate their work.  

Will they ask for money?  Not always, but sometimes.  That’s to be negotiated between you and the author.  You might pay a nominal sum, or you might be asked to fork a pretty hefty chunk of case.  All depends.  (This is called a “licensing fee.”) 

To quote your mother (and mothers everywhere), it never hurts to ask.