to Mr. Woodford
April 3, 1950
Dear Mr. Woodford:
Of course you have my permission to use the quotation from The Year of Decision you ask for.
Incidentally, I solicit you not to assist the growing conviction of publishers that permission for quotations has to be asked and if possible paid for. The law is quite clear: “reasonable” quotation, which may run to many hundred words, is everybody’s right. It is only when a writer stands to profit from the work of others rather than his own that he is infringing any law or
any custom of the publishing business. If a man is merely editing someone else’s work, as in an anthology, he ought to pay for it. If, however, he is commenting on it or using it illustratively he is entitled to use as much as he likes and the courts will so find. Ethically and culturally a man who publishes a book puts it at the disposal of anyone who wants to use it. If there is such a thing as cultural heritage, then it belongs to everyone and only those who expect to profit from it
I look with distrust on the habit publishers have formed in recent years of trying to turn an illegitimate penny by making difficulties or by intimidation. I regard my own stuff as freely available to anyone who wants to use it and as a matter of principle I do not ask permission when I quote.
Excuse the sermon but I regard the point as important.