Can I use facts from articles and newspapers in my novel?

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Question:

I'm writing a book that deals with a long-running news story. I'm getting my facts from newspapers and magazines and turning the story into a novel, based on fact. Do I have to get the sources' permissions to use the facts? How do I give proper credit in the book to these sources?

Answer:

The copyright laws do not protect facts -- only the particular way an author expresses them in a work such as a newspaper article, magazine, or book. If you are taking the facts only from news stories and putting them into your own words as part of a novel, you don't need permission.

If, on the other hand, you're doing a substantial amount of verbatim or near-verbatim copying from news stories, that's different. Depending on several factors such as the type of use, the amount you have borrowed, and your financial gain, this may qualify as a fair use. More likely your copying would be considered an infringement (unless you first obtain permission).

Authors of novels and other fictional works are not required to give credit to the sources of their inspiration, but you may certainly do so if you wish. And remember that Golden Rule about Doing Unto Others. If someone else took their inspiration from you, you would like to be acknowledged.

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