Permissions: An Author's Guide

Wesleyan University Press If you are quoting or otherwise using literary, pictorial, or graphic works (published or unpublished), you may have to obtain permission to do so, for reasons of copyright, ownership, and courtesy. The law of copyright is very specific on what constitutes fair use of another person's intellectual property, and copyright holders are becoming increasing assertive about their exclusive rights. Libraries, archives, and owners of unpublished material also usually require authors to obtain permission to reproduce materials. And asking permission to reproduce a work is in any case a courtesy to its creator. It is very important that you obtain all necessary permissions before reprinting something.

 

The Law on CopyrightSection 107 of Title 17 of the United States Code reads as follows:

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the fair use of copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified in that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include--

(1) the purpose and the character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Note also that the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Title 1 of Pub. L. No. 105-298, 112 Stat. 2817, 2830, extends protection of a work to the life of the work's creator plus seventy years. For the most up-to-date information on copyright law, please look at <www.loc.gov/copyright/>.

Quoting a short section of someone else's work in order to comment on or critique it is generally considered fair use, as is parody. We suggest you keep quotations to 100 words or less. You would need permission to quote whole chapters and poems and even parts of song lyrics, illustrations, photographs, and artworks. Write to the publisher or author to find out who the copyright holder is; usually it's the creator of the work.

You are not covered by the fair use clause if you're using a quote as a title, epigraph, or illustration or are using a pictorial or graphic element as a motif. This is likely to be of special concern if you are publishing a book of poems or fiction.

Obtaining Permission

Use the Sample Permissions Letter, found in the For Authors page of our Web site to apply for permission. Notice that it asks, among other things, whether specific wording or placement is required for a credit line. This is very important, particularly for illustration captions. You may have to pay a permission fee. Because this part of the process can take an indeterminate length of time (the copyright holder may be hard to track down), the book cannot be copyedited until everything having to do with permissions is in place. If you are in doubt about whether permission is required for something you want to use, please ask us.

Prepared for Wesleyan University Press by
Maura High and Barbara Norton with
B. Williams & Associates