When you are writing your book, you’ll likely come across someone else’s work that you want to incorporate into your book. How do you go about getting permission? Below are a few considerations to think about:
First, you’ll have to contact the copyright owner. For text, that may be the author or the publisher. If you want to use song lyrics, you’ll have to contact the music publisher of the song (as an aside, there are two copyrights in music: one for the sound recording you hear, which is owned by the record company, and the other for the song lyrics, which is owned by the music publisher). If you want to use visual art, you’ll have to contact an artist/illustrator or gallery.
How do you do this? Do your research. If the copyright owner is not listed on the work you want to use, or there is confusion as to who is the copyright owner, you may want to look on copyright.gov for any related records. This may help narrow your search. Look for clues on the work’s copyright page or liner notes (if the work is a book or song). Perhaps the work is affiliated with an estate or a library or historical society. They may also be able to help you determine the work’s origins.
Once you figure out who the copyright owner is, the other thing you’ll want to have handy are the details of your permission request. Be prepared to give the copyright owner the following information in a letter or agreement to obtain a permissions quote:
- Your book’s print run
- How much of copyrighted material you’ll use
- Where the copyrighted material will appear in your book
- How you’ll use the copyrighted material
- Why the copyrighted material is useful to your work
- How the work will be credited
- The languages your book will be printed in
- The territories your book will be printed in
- The formats your book will be printed in (hardcover, paperback, etc.)
If you have been denied permission, can’t get in touch with the copyright owner, or the quote is simply too expensive, you can try your luck with fair use. But that’s another newsletter for another day.
I hope this mini introduction helps in any questions you may have about obtaining permissions.