MD Kerr

Copyright permissions

Anything one writes is automatically copyright in the United Kingdom; this page is to give permission to fellow poets writing forms that borrow from someone else's work. People are often confused about copyright, so I've also included the wee primer I give my students, at the bottom.

Copyright-free for poets: #FreeForPoets

Lots of wonderful poetry forms involve riffing off another poet's work – but copyright law means it's hard to play with anything contemporary. So I'm giving copyright permission for poets writing glosas / gloses / glosses, coupling poems, golden shovels, acrostics, centos, or erasures, to use any of the poems on this site, with just these conditions:

  • You credit which part comes from my poem
  • If you put it online, you also link to the original poem

That's it! Fill yer boots! If there's another form I haven't thought of, email me. If you'd also like to make your poems available for other poets to play with, let me know, use the hashtag #FreeForPoets if you're on social media, and we can make lists on our sites of poets who're in.

Other uses

For any other uses, artworks, etc, contact me at mdkerr@mdkerr.com.

Copyright primer

There's nothing worse than writing a massive glosa then discovering it can't leave your drawer for years, so here's a tiny treatise on the basics of copyright. In the UK, copyright is automatic; you don't have to register or publish your work to copyright it. Copyright expires 70 years after the author's death. Some common misconceptions about copyright are...

"It's okay if I use less than 5%." This comes from the rules given to schools, universities, etc, about how much they're allowed to copy for their students, once they've already paid their fee to the Copyright Licensing Agency. (These are Good People. They're on our side and if you've had anything published, you can claim some of that copyright-fee money via ALCS. Sign up!) It only applies for educational institutions who've paid their fee.

"It's okay if it's a very short quote." Copyright isn't based on length, but how unique something is. So "Would you like a cup of tea?" can't be copyright; that's not very unique. "A thing with feathers" is shorter but instantly recognisable, so that would be copyright (except that Emily Dickinson's been dead long enough). Most lines of poetry are going to be unique. Anything worth quoting is, really.

"It's already in the public domain." "In the public domain" means "It's already out of copyright" (ie the author's been dead more than 70 years). It doesn't mean "It's freely available on the internet". Another site might have permission to use it, but that doesn't mean you do. Or another site might be breaking copyright law.

Browse poems to play with