Using prayers from a copywrited book in a chuch cookb

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  • First, let me say I am not a librarian, but I am a lawyer who has a 20 year old rudimentary flawed memory of something called copyrited material. I am in charge a committee in my church that is publishing a church cookbook. We're think we understand about copyrighted recipes, but another problem has occurred. We want to put certain table graces in the book. We found a copyrighted book written by a monk that had several graces. Most were clearly his own. However, there were several in which he noted after the prayer an author, such as, "Robert Burns." On others he included a notation after the grace of authors/names as "Selkirk Grace," which I understand is a famous old grace. On others he said "Traditional Grace," "Hindu Prayer," "Grace found on the wall of a Pub in London," "Celtic Grace." It is my clear impression that these graces were not authored by him. Some were old time favorites I said as a kid. Would I be safe in assuming I could use these graces without seeking permission? I would not use the ones without attribution that seemed to be written by him.

    We will be printing and selling 2000 copies of the cookbook out of the Church's Gift Shop. All proceeds from the sale of the cookbooks will be contributed to non-profit organizations that serve the poor in our city. The church will not take any proceeds from the sale of the cookbook.

    I'm hoping folks will have mercy on me and give me some insight on whether the use of 15 or so of these short (4-6 line prayers) might fall under the fair use exception. We queried the author's publishing company about getting permission and the answer was convaluted and will likely take more time than we have before we need to go to printing. Thanks in advance for any help you can give.
  • No one can give you a simple, definitive answer because that's not the way copyright law works. Fair use must be determined on a case-by-case basis using the four factors. Unless that determination is made by a judge deciding a case, you cannot be certain that the determination is correct.

    However, here's my determination using the four factors:

    1. Character of use. Usually this means commercial or educational. I think your use falls into neither category. However, I think this factor clearly works in your favor. You are giving 100% of the proceeds to the poor; who can argue with that?

    2. Nature of work. Creative or factual. Clearly creative, but perhaps not as creative as a novel or a movie. This factor works against you.

    3. Amount used. Depends on how you measure. You are taking entire prayers but only a small portion, I think, of the book. Let's keep it simple and just assume that this factor works against you.

    4. Market value. In my opinion, your use has no impact on the market.

    Let's look at the motivation of the people who will buy your cookbook. I think these people will buy your book to get the recipes or to support a good cause. I don't think that anyone will buy your book in order to get the prayers. It's a cookbook, not a prayerbook. If the demand for your book has nothing to do with the prayer, then the market for the prayers is not affected by your use.

    I consider the fourth factor to be by far the most important one, and I believe the courts agree. However, there is no definite rule about how much weight should be assigned to each factor. My determination is that your proposed use is fair.

    I'll be happy to discuss this further if you wish.
  • Thank you for responding so quickly, I will have to ponder your answer. the issue that is bugging me is that I firmly believe that the author put prayers in the book attributed to others. These were not his own writings. I'm not attempting to use his prayers. I want to use the prayers that he has attributed to someone else. I.E. he writes:

    For this good food and joy renewed, we praise your name, O Lord.

    Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

    I said the Traditional Catholic Grace at meals for my first 16 years. How can the fact he wrote at book with this grace in it and copywrited the book give him any rights to restrict our use of this grace?
  • I said the Traditional Catholic Grace at meals for my first 16 years. How can the fact he wrote a book with this grace in it and copyrighted the book give him any rights to restrict our use of this grace?
    I meant to deal with this issue before, but I was distracted. I was raised as a Catholic, but my father, a Presbyterian, said the Traditional Catholic Grace at meals as well. The author has no right to restrict your use of this or any other traditional grace. Sometimes people claim copyrights that they do not have. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes mistakenly. Sometimes people claim copyrights but don't specify exactly what is being claimed. In this case, I believe that the author has the copyright on everything he actually wrote and on the compilation. If your book uses the same graces in the same order, with no recipes in between, you might have a problem. Might, but I doubt it. I think this kind of situation happens a lot with music CDs. Let's say an original album with 10 songs was released in 1980. Maybe the CD version was released with 3 bonus tracks in 1990. But the CD goes out of print until 2000 when another company wants to re-release the CD. The musician or the original album producer probably has the copyright on all of the individual songs and the 10 song combination. However, its very possible that the first CD producer has the copyright for the 13 song combination. The second CD producer might not be able to release the same combination but might be able to get around it by merely adding another bonus track. If you have reasonable evidence that the graces you want to use are traditional, created long before the author wrote the book, then go ahead and use the graces. The four factors do not apply to these graces because the author's copyright might apply to the specific combination but certainly does not apply to the individual graces. The four factors come into play only if the works are more contemporary, regardless of who the author really is. You need to make your own determination if you want to use these works, but I believe that as long as the amount that you use is small, you can fairly use any of the graces in the book, including the ones clearly attributed to the author. I certainly don't have a problem if you don't want to use the author's graces. However, I don't want you to avoid them simply because you are worried about copyright.
  • I'd agree with Alfred- your use would probably be considered fair IMHO. However, the concern you'll probably have is, since the publisher is aware of the project, if the publisher believes that using the material is not fair and will sue. Even if your work is found fair, that suit could affect you.

    Many of the traditional prayers are in the public domain due to age or other reasons, and if there are copyright holders I doubt they're likely to sue- or else public performances would be copyright infringment. :P

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