Why Is There a Rule Against Poetry Critics Quoting Poetry?

In a recent article, the poetry critic of the New York Times complained that to do poetry criticism right, it’s often necessary to quote extensively from a poem. Indeed, in the case of a short poem, it might be helpful to readers to copy the whole thing. But, the critic said, this can’t be done because it might run afoul of copyright law.

It is true that copyright law prohibits the unauthorized copying of any substantial part of someone’s poem, song, or other work. What does “substantial” mean? Well, in one recent case, a federal court held that rap group N.W.A.’s unauthorized sample of a two-second guitar chord was infringing. The court’s holding was clear: “Get a license, or do not sample.”

Is this a good policy? From an economic perspective, no. Use of a small bit of someone else’s creative work to build a new creative work rarely harms the economic interests of the first copyright owner, because most “derivative” works do not directly compete with the original. In the case mentioned above, no one thought that N.W.A.’s rap song “100 Miles and Runnin’” would lure potential paying customers away from Funkadelic’s “Get Off Your Ass And Jam." (Note: neither song is safe for work.)

Haiku and the Invisible Hand

The economist Stephen T. Ziliak is also a haikuist. As he writes in Poetry magazine, using haiku helps add "feelings to economics."

The Poetry of Journalism

Last week, Israel's oldest newspaper, Haaretz, took a one-off chance, temporarily replacing its workaday reporters with 31 of the country's leading poets and authors. The writers, as writers do, ran amok. They filed epic front-page news reports on daily life in the first person; ruminated about childhood in an interview with the country's defense minister; and delivered the weather report as a sonnet. The market report, written by a celebrated children's book author, read like a fairy tale: "Everything's okay. Everything's like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything's okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place ... Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9 percent to a level of 1,860 points ..."

The Econometrics Poem You've Been Waiting For

Guy Judge is deputy head of the economics department at the University of Portsmouth (U.K.), and is a principal lecturer in quantitative economics and computing. He is also a football (soccer) fanatic, a 50-year fan of Watford Football Club and contributor to that team’s now-defunct fanzine, BsaD (Blind, Stupid and Desperate). Like our friend Dan […]

The Winning Definition of "Madoff," in Limerick Form

We’ve invited a special guest to judge our Bernie Madoff limerick contest: Chris J. Strolin, founder and editor-in-chief of The OEDILF, The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form. The OEDILF is an international online dictionary-writing project, the goal of which is to write at least one limerick for every definition of every word in the […]

There Once Was a Fund Guy Named Bernie …

A reader named Van Brenner wrote to let us know about an online dictionary in which every definition is written in the form of a limerick. One of our favorites is the following one on bear markets by Robert Holland: Gentle Ben this bear market is not, Especially for bulls who are caught Unawares by […]

The Opossum

Our Naked Self-Promotion box, over in the right-hand column of this blog, recently posted a squib about how Highlights magazine, in honor of its 60th anniversary, ran a little essay I wrote about having my very first published work appear in Highlights. It was a poem called The Opossum. Afterward, a bunch of people e-mailed […]

My Son Andrew Would Have Turned 10 Today

My son Andrew would have turned 10 today. I usually try to say a little something about him on the blog around this time of year. This year, I commemorate Andrew through the words of a new friend, John Latham. In his day job, Latham is a leading climate scientist. He also moonlights as a […]

More Economics Haiku

Image taken from itchys. When we ran our economic haiku contest, we had no idea there were actually economists (or more accurately, one economist) writing papers about haiku. The verdict is out on whether writing haikus turns students into better economists. It does seem to lead to their professors winning teaching awards.

Haiku Writers Know …

Congratulations to Sophie, the runaway winner of the economic haiku contest, for this beautiful composition: Haiku writers know The opportunity cost Of a syllable. Sophie not only wins Freakonomics schwag, but also the right to post haikus on the Freakonomics blog whenever she pleases. As is often the case when the prize is so great, […]