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One pub tip subscriber asked: Is there anything you can quote without permission? If so, what and how much? If you quote a sentence from a book and credit the author and book title in the text, do you have to get permission?


In response, I’d like to emphasize several points: (1) When in doubt, seek permission; (2) obtaining permission can take as long as 4-6 months, so start early, and (3) I’ve seen “fair use” defined a number of ways, but I believe you would be reasonably safe to quote one sentence from a book along with the author’s name and title of the book (however, if it’s one line of poetry, I would definitely obtain permission). I’m not an attorney nor a permissions “expert,” so any risk you take is your own.


In the process of creating anthologies, I’ve read many descriptions about how to obtain permission for previously published material. Loyola Press, the publisher of my new book, Looking for God in All the Right Places, provided a thorough and concise description of this process. They kindly gave me permission to reprint the following material for my May 2004 pub tip.


The web site for Loyola Press is


Rights and Permissions Information for Authors


Before a manuscript can be sent to copyediting (which is approximately 6–8 weeks after a manuscript is deemed acceptable by the acquisitions editor and other internal reviewers), the author must supply a complete list of credit lines for all of the excerpted material in the book.


What is copyrightable material?


What is in the public domain?


When is a work copyrighted and how long before the work goes into the public domain?


Date of Work

Protected from


Created 1/1/78 or after

The date on which the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, i.e., written down, photographed, recorded.

Life of the author + 70 years[1] (or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publications, or 120 years from creation[2])

Published before 1923

In the public domain


Published between 1923 and 1963

When published with copyright notice[3]

28 years from the date of publication, then could be renewed for 47 years, and if it was renewed the term was extended by 20 years for a total of 67 years from date of renewal. If the work was not renewed, it is in the public domain. (i.e., either 28 years from date of publication and not renewed—in public domain; or, if renewed after the first term, 95 years from date of publication)

Published between 1964 and 1977

When published with copyright notice

28 years for the first term; then an automatic extension of 67 years for second term (i.e., 95 years from date of publication)

Created before 1/1/78 but not published

1/1/78, the effective date of the 1976 Act, which eliminated common law copyright

Life of the author + 70 years or 12/31/2002, whichever is greater

Created before 1/1/78 but published between then and 12/31/2002

1/1/78, the effective date of the 1976 Act, which eliminated common law copyright

Life of the author + 70 years or 12/31/2047, whichever is greater


[1] Term of joint works is measured by the life of the longest-lived author.

[2] Works for hire, anonymous, and pseudonymous works also have this term. 17 U.S.C. § 302(c)

[3] Under the 1909 Copyright Act, works published without notice went into the public domain upon publication. Works published without notice between 1/1/78 and 3/1/89, effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, retained copyright only if registration was made within five years. 17 U.S.C. § 405(c)



What are some public domain pitfalls?


What is fair use?

        Section 107 of the Copyright Act states: “The fair use of a copyrighted work . . . for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research is not an infringement of copyright.”

        Fair use has little to do with a given percentage of a work and more with how what you would like to reprint relates to the “heart” of a work. (The 250-word limit is a myth.) You may wish to reprint only a few lines from a 500-page novel, but if these lines happen to come from a mystery novel and give away the identity of the murderer, obviously, fair use does not apply. And with poetry and song lyrics, the use of even one line requires that you get permission to use that excerpt.

Keep in mind the following factors of fair use.

·          the purpose and character of the use

·          the nature of the copyrighted work

·          the amount and substantiality of the portion used

·          the effect of the use on the potential market


Once I’ve determined I need to request permission, how do I go about it?


1.       Locate the permissions grantor.

Find the primary source, i.e., look at the acknowledgments/credit line page in an anthology or at the copyright page in a book. Determine who holds the rights to the work you’d like to excerpt. Often a book will come out in paperback after it comes out in hardcover, or even vice versa. You will need to request permission from the original publisher.

2.       Put your request in writing. Include the following in your request:

3.       Wait for a response.

4.       Adhere to the contract.


I’ve put off requesting permission. How can I speed up the permissions process?


Keep in mind the following as you embark on the permissions process:


After I’ve completed the permissions, what do I send to Loyola?


Are there any good Web sites for copyright and permissions information?


¨        Card Catalog Searches



¨        Copyright Holder Searches



¨        Informative Copyright Law Sites




¨        Specific Copyright Information





[sample permission request letter]




Permissions Manager

ABC Publishing Company

7894 Burdock Road

Springfield, GA  49275




Dear Permissions Manager:


I am writing to request permission to reprint


pp. 234-5 in Chapter 9 of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Saints by Eve Adamski, 1987


in my upcoming book Saints, Saints, and More Saints due to be published by Loyola Press in March 2002.


Edition: Trade book

Binding: Paperback

Approximate number of pages: 200–­­250

Initial print run: 7,500

Proposed price: $12.95

Market: U.S. and Canada

Language: English

I request non-exclusive reprint rights and hope that you will extend rights to all future editions and to special non-profit editions for use by the handicapped.


For your convenience, you may indicate your approval by signing below and returning one copy of this letter.





Adam Eveski


321 Circle Way

Baraboo, WI  89723

(919) 345-6789





(In signing, you warrant you are the owner of the rights granted herein)


Date: _____________                                                        By:____________________

                                                                                                Authorized Signature and Title


Terms:_________________                                              SS# or FID#:____________________

                                                                                                                                Required for payment


Credit line to read:__________________________________________________________





 [end of sample permission request letter]

© Loyola Press


Article provided by June Cotner, publishing consultant and author of the bestselling Graces and Dog Blessings and 24 other books. PO Box 2765, Poulsbo, WA 98370


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