WARNING: This site contains language

I am not a lawyer. I am not writing this as a Content Editor or admin. This is not official policy. You may read the some of the official E2 policies on these issues here, here, and here.

Everything2 is a creature built of words. Unfortunately some of those words belong to other people. Because of this, there are rules to be followed. While the federal copyright law in the United States purposefully made its definition of fair use ambiguous and open to interpretation, E2 has decided to adopt a CYA approach and provide clear-cut numbers which define what is and is not allowed as fair use on the site. The guidelines on E2 are very similar to those used by most colleges and universities across the country.

Before we begin, let's define a few terms. It should be noted that these are very simplistic definitions - you know how to click a link if you need some elaboration:

Fair Use

One very important point made in the definition above is that fair use is the use of the work without permission. For example, if you should happen to have the permission from a book author to reprint his work, fair use does not apply to you, and you could post the entire book to E2 and never have to worry about 10% or 1000 word limits with two-thirds of your own material. However, if you do not have permission from the author, you'd better follow the guidelines defined in E2 FAQ: Copyrighted Material. For the purpose of completeness, these fair use guidelines are included below1:

Lyrics and poetry

  • Cited material cannot exceed 250 words
  • If the cited work is less than 250 words then the entire work can be cited
  • Original material must exceed cited works by 2/3

Copyrighted fiction and non-fiction

  • Cited material cannot exceed 10% of work or 1000 words, whichever is less
  • If the work is less than 1000 words then cited material must not exceed 10% of work
  • Original material must exceed cited works by 2/3

Public Domain

  • Works that are in the public domain may be cited or transcribed in their entirety
  • Although not required, the inclusion of original analysis or review is highly encouraged
  • Hardlinks to author and citations for work are required
  • The work must be noded under its original title
  • If the work is too large to include in one node, arrange nodes by chapter and title by original chapter headers if available
  • The node of the work's title should contain a table of contents with hardlinks to chapter nodes
  • Hardlink both backwards to the previous chapter and forwards to the next chapter are required

Getting Permission to Use Copyrighted Works

So you want to use all or part of a copyrighted work, and don't know where to start? Here are the basics:

Determine if Permission is Required

Will your use of the work fall within the fair use boundaries set by E2? If so, you probably don't need permission. However, it may be in your best interest to try to get it anyway. When in doubt, ask for permission. You can also ask a god or content editor - that's what they get paid for.

Identify the Copyright Owner

This is often quite easy. Most copyrighted materials will contain a copyright symbol (©) followed by a year followed by the copyright holder. For example:

© 2003 The Everything Development Company

In this example, the copyright holder would be "The Everything Development Company". From here it is often a matter of entering this name into your favorite search engine to find further contact information. Be sure to pay attention to the year, as copyrighted materials can change hands over time. To further complicate issues, some copyrighted works can have multiple owners. To use a book excerpt, you may need to contact the publishing company and the author. To use the lyrics of your favorite band, you may need to contact the record company, the music publisher, and the artist. When in doubt, use some common sense to figure out who you think should own the copyright, and work from there.

Determine the Rights You Need

You can be granted or refused various rights regarding any copyrighted material including rights to reproduce, distribute, or modify the original. When you contact the owner, you will need to specify your intentions. Here on Everything2, this will usually entail telling the owner that you want to use all or part of their work on a public web site. Let them know the nature of the site and what you are doing with their work. Be honest, and don't worry too much about them saying "No". Keep in mind that you always have the options of Fair Use if you can't get the full permissions you need.

Be Prepared to Wait

Once you have written and sent a suitable letter (see Sample Letter below), be prepared to wait. Your letter may take months to filter its way through the public relations office of the publishing company for your favorite bestselling author, but an up-and-coming local band might be thrilled with the prospect of a new fan and reply immediately. Everything is on a case by case basis.


Sometimes the copyright holder will expect payment for the use of their work. While I can't rationalize paying money to be able to post a writeup, perhaps some of you can. In these cases, be sure you know what you are getting. Since you are now purchasing something rather than just kindly asking for permission, you have the right to make some demands and get what you want out of the deal. Most importantly, be sure you are getting an unlimited term of use (i.e., the amount of time you are allowed to use the copyrighted material). You don't want to have to remove the material from your writeup after a specified term has passed.

Get it in Writing

While oral agreements are binding in most areas, it is difficult to prove the exact terms of the agreement unless it is in writing. This does not necessarily mean that anyone is signing a contract or any other form of legal document (though if you paid for the use, you should have a contract), but you should word your request properly so that if the only response you get is something like "Sure you can use my poem," there will be no question as to what the owner agreed to.

Sample Letter

From a legal standpoint, a physical letter sent via postal mail is somewhat more official, but email is much faster. You need to determine what is more important for your situation. If you don't know what to say, here's a starting point. You may also be interested in mat catastrophe's sample letter found here.


Dear {Name of Copyright Holder},

I am writing to request permission to use the following material on a public 
web site called Everything2 (http://www.everything2.com):

{Insert complete description and/or citation of work(s).  Be as specific
as possible and include all relevant information such as chapters, page numbers,
track numbers, etc.}

Everything2 is an online encyclopedia and collaborative writer's forum which
includes both fact and fiction on any subject, and the inclusion of your work would be a
benefit to the site.  I plan to {give a short sentence on what you plan
to put in your writeup.  Are you going to review, critique, compare, describe,
or explicate?}.

I will fully attribute your work through the use of {a footnote? 
bibliography? etc.}.  If requested, I can also include a copyright
notice with wording of your choice next to your work.


{Full Name}


If you are sending the letter via postal mail, you may also wish to include a self-addressed stamped envelope and a simple permission slip that the person can easily sign and return it to you.

Your Writeup

Once you have been granted permission to use the resource you can compose and post your writeup. Make it good, and be sure to cite your sources! Even though you have received permission, it is still plagiarism if you do not attribute the work of others.


In case you are interested in seeing this in action, check out our:

Permission Obtained

Permission Denied (though worthy attempts)

More Resources

1 E2's interpretation of Fair Use was taken from E2 FAQ: Copyrighted Material by dem bones and Roninspoon, though I have added my own hard links and pipe links.

General information for this writeup was taken from Stanford University's Copyright and Fair Use web site at http://fairuse.stanford.edu. It is an excellent resource for the subject.

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