How to get Permission to use Copyrighted Material

Writers who wish to use references to other works in their material often face the dilemma of whether or not permission must be obtained to avoid charges of copyright infringement.  Often written works restrict use other than reasonable quotes in connection with reviews, while some allow broader use.  Work that is in the public domain does not require permission.

To avoid problems, before quoting from or using other works, it is wise to consult a knowledgeable source, such as a lawyer, editor, or publisher first.  The most effective way to get permission to use copyrighted work, however, is to directly contact the publisher of the work.  Some publishers will provide a form to be used to make such requests, while others might ask for a letter of request.  Some publishers include the form for requesting use of copyrighted material on their Internet sites.

If you’re requesting permission to use copyrighted work in something you yourself are preparing for publication, make the request well in advance of your planned publication date.  It is an unfortunate fact that publishers often take months to respond to requests for use of copyrighted material.

In preparing your request, be as detailed as possible; citing the material you wish to use, planned distribution, form of distribution, and estimated date of publication.  Also, you should identify yourself; whether you’re an author, editor, or publisher.  If you don’t plan commercial distribution of the work containing the copyrighted material, some publications will grant you the right of use without payment of fee, although most will demand payment.  Fees for use of copyrighted material that is to be included in works for sale are often high.

There are a number of works that require permission before they can be used.  Song lyrics, for instance, require permission of the copyright owner before they can be used in other written works, fiction or nonfiction.  This does not apply, however, to the song titles themselves.  Passages from books or articles; including newspaper articles; can within reasonable limits be used in reviews of the work without obtaining written permission, but in a novel or nonfiction book, for instance, the wise course is to request permission.

Some copyrighted works require permission from more than one source before they can be used.  The photo in a magazine of a famous person, for instance, might require permission from the subject as well as the photographer before it can be used.

Even in cases where permission is not required, a writer quoting from someone else’s work should give full credit to the original artist or writer.  This is often the requirement imposed by authors of material on the Internet, such as blog sites and the like.  It is also a courteous practice.  After all, put yourself in that writer’s place; wouldn’t you want to be credited for your work?