As you may recall, I emailed the permissions department of the New York Review of Books for help identifying the entity holding the copyright to R. J. Hollingdale’s translation of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s The Waste Books.
Yesterday I heard back from Patrick Hederman, who inquired as to the extent to which I would be quoting the book, as in “exactly how many words.” Whew, I thought, that was easy: the little I intended to use could scarcely present a problem.
It was easy to determine: open up a new little file in the Lichtenbergianism Scrivener file and copy/paste all the aphorisms in there—let the software count the words. There were 509 words contained in 21 aphorisms.
Ah, replied Mr. Hederman, we don’t actually hold the copyright, but that little amount of text ought to fall under fair use. My thoughts exactly, I replied, but I want to make extra sure.
Mr. Hederman did not know who the owner of the copyright was, but had the email of Frances Hollingdale, representative of the Hollingdale estate. He also suggested contacting Penguin, from whom NYRB had subleased the work.
So yesterday I emailed Ms. Hollingdale and today I will contact Penguin, although my copy of the book states clearly that R. J. Hollingdale was the owner of the copyright.
I will also bookmark the original German text, just in case.