George from Cape Town, South Africa asks: Is it okay to use bits from someone else’s work in my non-fiction book? I don’t want to find myself in court on charges of plagiarism or breach of copyright.
It is not plagiarism or a breach of copyright to use short quotes from someone’s work, as long as you acknowledge the original source. It should be clear that you are citing another author, and appropriate reference given, including the title of the work, the year it was published and the publisher.
Publishing long passages of work without the author’s permission is a breach of copyright, even if the author is acknowledged. You may be allowed to reprint part of another author’s work by gaining permission from the copyright holder. If the copied section is part of a book, rather than from an article, it is usual to contact the publisher. In most cases, use of someone else’s work involves a fee.