Blogger: Mary Keeley
In my March 22 blog “3 Tips to Prepare Content for New Technologies,” Cynthia Ruchti brought up a good point about permissions as they relate to imminent new technologies. Since general questions also have been asked in recent posts, it might be helpful to dedicate an entire post to permissions. By the end of our discussion today, I hope the cloud of confusion will lift and you will feel equipped to know when you need to request permission and how to go about acquiring it.
The U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Guidelines, Section 107, lists six purposes for using a particular work that are considered fair: For “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.” It goes on to list four factors you need to consider in deciding whether your intended use can be considered fair:
- “The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.”
The Section goes on to state that the boundary between fair use and infringement is unclear.
- “There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission”
- “Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.” In all the editorial sources I have researched, the consensus is that 275–300 words can be extracted from a book-length work without seeking permission IF you include a credit line referencing the copyright holder, year, and source. For other size works, the allowable portion is based on a proportionate percentage of the work. For songs and poetry, it would be one or two lines, unless it is public domain.
The way I’ve written the two lists above offers an example of fair use treatment. I’ve credited the source (along with the link since it is available online) and put quotation marks around the portions extracted.
When You Need to Request Permission
- If you want to excerpt a larger portion of a book, newspaper or magazine article, contact the publisher to request permission. Most publishing contracts allow the publisher to grant permission for portions of the author’s work. It serves as free promotion of the work. And the publisher can require payment, if it so chooses. Email correspondence speeds the process and constitutes written permission. The publisher will want to know the exact portion of text you want to excerpt, title of the publication, and author, as well as the title and subject of your book or article in which you plan to insert the excerpt. But let’s say you just found this excerpt and don’t have time to wait for approval of your permissions request. Summarize the excerpt in your own words, quoting no more than a sentence verbatim. And use quotations marks for that sentence. Don’t forget to cite the source you’re summarizing.
- If you plan to videotape or photograph people, places, and things for your print or e-book, you need to prepare a “Permission Grant” template that you can adapt for a specific use. Include the language, “I __(name)__________ grant (your name) permission to use my image (storefront, music, etc.) in his/her work, titled ___________. Describe in detail how you intend to use the image. This will give you credibility. Have spaces for you and the other party to sign it. Provide a signed copy for each of you. Whenever possible, get permission first. IMPORTANT: Look at your photo or video immediately after snapping/recording it to see if there is anything in the frame you didn’t notice beforehand; then try to get after-the-fact permissions. If you can’t, you cannot use the photo/video.
Okay, your turn. Share your own experiences with permissions. As noted, there are gray areas; your experiences are a great way for us to learn. If you have lingering questions, bring them up for discussion.
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