tangor - 11:29 pm on Feb 16, 2012 (gmt 0)
I'd like to quote some text from books on a site
I read this as "some text" which, IMO should fall under Fair Use (US) or Fair Dealing (UK, Commonwealth). If properly attributed, there's no problems in doing this. That said, Fair Use is SHORT quotes for the purpose of illustration/scholarly report, with emphasis on SHORT. What that number of words might be is rather fluid, though if the work is already short and 90% is "quoted" then Fair Use has been exceeded. Additionally, if these are true IMAGE scans of a printed page, not ocr'd to text then to html, etc., that would also seem okay under Fair Use. Example:
Scan of an early 18th century chapbook page showing typesetting and illustration that is included in an article regarding the printing industry.
In the US public domain is anything before 1923.