Re. Permission to quote?

Subject: Re. Permission to quote?
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 1995 11:07:23 LCL

Harvey Millman asked about permission to quote or paraphrase
information contained in a thesis plainly labeled "you can't quote me
without my permission". There are really two sides to this question,
ethical and conventional:

1. Ethical: If someone asks you to contact him/her for permission
before being quoted, you should try to do so. It generally can't hurt,
and it's polite. Contacting the university and department that
sponsored the thesis should help; they often have a forwarding address
for the author. Moreover, many (most?) universities hold a joint
copyright on theses, particularly if the thesis supervisor is a
co-author. If this is the case, the university itself can grant you
permission if you can't reach the author.

2. Convention: In academe, virtually anything that is published and
made publically available is considered quotable without the author's
permission. There are no exceptions that I'm aware of, although you
must take care to quote fairly and accurately to avoid damaging
someone's reputation (in particular, there is a risk of libel if
you're sufficiently brash about your misquoting). In industry, this
can differ. For example, you might come into possession of a document
marked "confidential: internal use only", which might be (depending on
the context) stolen property; you could cause a lot of trouble for
someone by possessing it, or perhaps get in trouble yourself (e.g., if
the document comes from your employer). If you're a journalist writing
a no-holds barred expose, there are other issues, but they don't seem
to apply here. Start by being polite and considerate of the author's
needs in making that statement, and see if this suggests a reason not
to quote.

--Geoff Hart #8^{)} ... and you can quote me on that.
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: These comments are my own and don't represent the opinions
of the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada.

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