right to quote personal letters from others

Subject: right to quote personal letters from others
From: Mark Halpern <mhalpern -at- SCOPUS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 12:14:54 -0700


I have a legal question that I hope is close enough to copyediting
concerns to warrant posting here.

I want to write an article, for publication in some commercial
journal, that will include extensive quotations from letters I have
received. I have a vague idea that I am entitled, on the principle of
"fair comment" or something similar, to quote some amount of such
letters, without special permission from their authors. But I have no
idea of how much I may quote this way, or indeed if that principle
applies at all to the kind of use I intend to make of these letters.

Does anyone in the list know the answer? Or know where an
authoritative answer can be found (short of a consultation with a
lawyer)? If respondents prefer to answer off line, I will summarize for
the list whatever information I get.

Mark Halpern Scopus Technology
Sr Technical Editor 1900 Powell Street
mhalpern -at- scopus -dot- com Emeryville, CA 94608

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