I have been in this business for now 20 years and in this period, I have seen some things I have found crossed the line in what is known as fair use of other people’s work.
First, let’s define fair use. You can quote small passages mainly with the aim of 1. Commentary/criticism or 2. Parody. If you reproduce other people’s text, it will require acknowledgement of the origin.
As an author, I have tried to be plagiarised and receive compensation. As a publisher, we have caught three authors in presenting another’s work as their own. Two of these books were fixed; in one of these cases it was a few passages from Wikipedia and a few left-over variations from other people’s analysis. In all cases I have seen of plagiarism, it is the weakest part of the book.
I am bringing this up because there has been online debate about a recent book published by New in Chess, The Shereshevsky Method. The book is translated from Russian by Steve Giddins. It contains long passages from John Nunn’s seminal work, Secrets of Practical Chess as well as Positional Decision Making in Chess by Boris Gelfand and myself. It contains a lot of nice words about the books, but also exceeds the “fair use” definition.
It is a bit bizarre is that the passages in the book are taken from our English language book, but the credit to the book is given to the Russian publisher, who translated the book into Russian. This could make some sense for the original Russian edition of this book, and I wish our Russian partners all the headwind they can get, but it makes no sense in the English edition. Especially not when the translator is aware of the original book, as can be seen by him taking passages out of it.
We contacted New in Chess with our concerns. They were terribly apologetic and as far as I am concerned, this is the end of it. They might have been a bit asleep by the wheel, but it is an honest mistake. If they learn from them. On Forward Chess and in future print runs, there will be a few corrections, but we have granted permission after the fact. The New in Chess guys are both our competitors and our friends, but most importantly, we all work to serve you guys.
I should say that we are not beyond making mistakes ourselves. In one book, we inadvertently included a few comments from a game that we thought we original comments of our own, but were a part of an ebook. A reader made us aware of this and we grovelled to the author, sent him some free books and allowed him to laugh at us ?.
We also once asked a tournament for permission to use a few photos, which was granted. We later came to understand that they did not have the rights and could not give us permission. We contacted the photographer and paid him. He used the chance to take his anger out of general abuse of his copyright out on us, the ones who looked him out to pay him, years after the fact. It felt a bit unfair, but it was not.
Because the main point on copyright is this – Ignorance is not an excuse. It is the one thing we learned when we attended a lecture on copyright a decade ago. As far as the law is concerned, you have an obligation to know.