How to Get Permission to Use Copyrighted Material

Written by S. Arteta and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Copyright is the protection given by the law to authors which affords them with the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, or adapt a work for any purpose, with certain limitations as prescribed by the US copyright law. An original writing is protected by the copyright law from the moment of its creation and said protection shall last for the lifetime of the author plus another 50 years which may be extended for up to 70 years.

Since these materials are protected by copyright law, the use of the same requires permission from the authors thereof. It is the author or the person who will use the material that has the obligation to secure the permission. If there are several authors that contributed writings in one material, it is the permissions of the chapter authors that are required.

A written request must be sent to the permissions department of the publisher whose material the author wish to use. This is regardless of who holds the copyright to the material. If the material is credited to another book, then the request for permission must be sent to the original publisher. There are also rights that belong to illustrators, photographers, agencies, or corporations. There could be difficulty in securing permission if the copyright was sold or willed to third persons. There could be fees that may be assessed from the person seeking permission.

The materials that requires permission include the following:

1. A single quotation or several shorter quotes from a full-length book, more than 300 words in toto;

2. A single quotation of more than 50 words from a newspaper, magazine or journal;

3. Artworks, photographs, or forms, whether or not from a published source, charts, tables graphs and other presentations;

4. Parts or the entire song, poem or song lyric, etc.

However, not all materials require permission in order that they may be used. The following are materials that does not require permission:

1. Those that comply with the "Fair Use" doctrine;

2. Interviews;

3. Facts, information and ideas;

4. Public domain.

In order that you may not be held liable for infringement of copyright, you must give credit to the copyright holder of the work that you have used. Acknowledgment is not a substitute for permission. Thus, if the law requires that permission must be sought before the material could be used, then the same must be forthwith secured.

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