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Copyright and reproducing poems in print

This article explores the rules around reproducing poems online or in print, and what the 'fair use' of a poem looks like.

Before you share any poetry, you need to consider the question of copyright. Poetry like any writing is the result of someone else’s hard work. It should be treated with respect.

Copyright laws vary

Copyright laws are different from country to country. In the UK, a poem falls out of copyright when the poet has been dead for over 70 years. However, sometimes the publishers retain copyright for different reasons, for instance if a poem’s reprinted in a new edition.

For any poem quoted by us in full, we have sought full permission from both the poet where possible, and the publisher or relevant literary estate.

Because poems fall under the same copyright legislation as song lyrics, the rules can be strict. You can quote without problem: 1) the title and 2) up to two lines of the poem. Make sure you always credit the poem with the name of the poet, and website or collection title where possible.

Sharing poetry

We recommend you don’t share the poem in full if it is in copyright. We realise that this can be frustrating; but where possible you could include a link to the poem if it’s been published elsewhere.

There are arguments to say you can use more of a poem as long as it constitutes ‘fair use’ or ‘fair dealing’. In the UK, ‘fair dealing’ is described like this:

‘“Fair dealing” is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing – it will always be a matter of fact, degree and impression in each case. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?

Factors that have been identified by the courts as relevant in determining whether a particular dealing with a work is fair to include:

• Does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair

• Is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually, only part of a work may be used”

Exceptions to Copyright

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