GIVING SCHOLARS A BREAK - 1992-11-02
Before the Ford case, the move to federal law could have meant unpublished work was significantly easier to quote from than before. In a series of celebrated cases, though -- one involved the unpublished letters of the famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger, one a book about Scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard -- the courts gradually tightened the definition of "fair use" to the point where even a snippet or paraphrase was considered actionable. Scholars have been complaining loudly ever since that this viselike prohibition, and the constant threat of being sued, made it impossible to do the kind of research and writing that render history vivid. eventually leave the door open wider and the rules clearer. It's a small adjustment, but one from which all serious readers benefit.