If you’re looking for a policy on how you can use the material on this site, the simple answer is: for noncommercial/personal use, go for it (just attribute and link back, please). Be reasonable – don’t copy and paste the entire site! – but within reason, I’m happy for this knowledge to spread and better the world.
For commercial use, just shoot me an email and we’ll talk about it.
With that out of the way, the following text is an explanation of Askeladden Capital’s approach to Fair Use for the content on this site, published as of 2018-07-01.
According to sources such as the U.S. Copyright Office, there are typically four factors that determine whether or not the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works is fair use. These four factors are:
Purpose and character of the use.
Nature of the copyrighted work.
Amount and substantiality of the portion used.
Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
As the owner of a business (an investment firm) based upon intellectual property (proprietary investment research), I take fair use seriously and have made a good-faith effort to ensure that all content within Poor Ash’s Almanack falls within the spectrum of fair use. I analyze each of the four factors below.
Purpose and Character of the Use
This factor analyzes what the nature of the use is. Key questions include:
Transformative, or merely a reproduction? Fair use is upheld if the work is transformative – for example, “quotations incorporated into a paper, or included in commentary or criticism of the original.”
Poor Ash’s Almanack is a “latticework of mental models” that aims to tie together important, fundamental concepts about how the world works to help people lead more effective and happier lives. Taken as a whole, the integration of disparate sources of information is transformative.
Information is often reinterpreted in dramatically different contexts: for example, the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (typically used in a mental health context) are reinterpreted into a broader approach for identifying and replacing maladaptive beliefs; the principles of human-centered design and “choice architecture” are reinterpreted into a cohesive model for positively influencing our behavior.
Similarly, a review on a book about human curiosity integrates, among others, the science on avian intelligence, the educational experiences of Charles Darwin, and the perspective of a world-class designer.
Meanwhile, a discussion of a book on the mechanisms and health consequences of sleep is contextualized and extended by integrating perspectives from a chronobiologist, a survival expert, a researcher on forecasting, a professional therapist considered preeminent in her field, and a psychologist who’s extensively studied the human memory.
While the rest of the site, and its interrelations, should be considered beyond the commentary on any one page, the notes and analysis on most books directly integrate material and links to these models as well as notable material from other books. In many cases, I quote material specifically to highlight how it interacts with a model or another concept from another book – or I quote it to highlight how and why I disagree, meeting the commentary/criticism element.
Commercial or non-commercial use. Poor Ash’s Almanack is a free educational website that only derives direct revenue from one source: Amazon Affiliate commissions on sales of books that are linked on the website. Links are provided both at the book review page of any individual book, and across the site in other book reviews and mental models, whenever those books are referenced (even if briefly, and without a direct quote).
Thus, from a revenue standpoint, my interests are completely aligned with authors and publishers: I only earn money from the content when they earn money, and Poor Ash’s Almanack should hopefully introduce readers to books they might never have encountered or purchased on their own, including “backlist” books published long ago.
Nature of the Copyrighted Work
This factor analyzes what type of work is being used.
Factual and published works tend to be more “fair use” than creative or unpublished works. Most of the works I cite have been published for years or even decades; additionally, substantially all of them are factual in nature.
In fact, the typical book quoted or reviewed on Poor Ash’s Almanack is a nonfiction book in which the author is not presenting original work, but rather integrating some portion of their own work with summaries/conclusions of the work and research of others.
As such, many of the same concepts are expressed in different – or even very similar – ways across many books. For example, many of the psychology books I’ve read cite and interpret the “gorilla experiment.”
Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used
Fair use is typically upheld if the portion is small, and the “heart” of the work is not taken.
For example, in what I believe to be one of my most heavily-quoted / cited books relative to length, direct quotes amounted to roughly ~1,300 words out of what I estimate to be a total of ~130,000+ in the book (or ~1% of the book.) As such, the typical book will see significantly less than 1% of its portion used.
This pales in comparison to usage that caselaw already suggests is acceptable. According to one of many analyses of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision to uphold the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that Google Books was a fair use, even Google’s wholesale copying of books online – wherein users can browse through a significant portion of the book’s content, verbatim, and also find many other “snippets” by searching for other words – amounted to fair use:
According to the court, Google transformed the books’ text into what amounts to a digital directory that points readers to books that contain the topics or phrases they’re searching for, along with links to the retailers and libraries that carry them. And by displaying only snippets of the scanned content, the online directory should promote demand for the volumes it indexes, not undermine it.
A similar analysis would exist for Poor Ash’s Almanack, which uses far less of the book than Google Books, yet provides a similar value of “indexing” the book for readers interested in certain topics, while also providing the transformative element discussed above.
Effect of the Use upon the Potential Market for, or Value of, the Copyrighted Work
See above. If Google Books expands rather than diminishes the market for books, then Poor Ash’s Almanack certainly does the same.
Nonetheless, if you are the owner of a work highlighted on Poor Ash’s Almanack, and you object to specific usage, please contact me and let’s try our best to resolve the issue amicably.