Sunday, October 30, 2016


Material Requiring Permission:

        Authors are responsible to know the source of any previously printed material they wish to quote in their manuscripts. This includes indirectly quoted material from another publication that is a unique, original idea or highly selective and unusual information. It also includes material to be used extensively or as the basis of your manuscript. Such sources must be given with the manuscript, in footnotes, end-of-the-chapter notes, acknowledgments, or in a special note to the editor.

        Permission must be obtained to reprint lengthy quotes—ranging from approximately 250 words and upward. This is a total number including all quotations taken from one source. The total allowed is affected by the length of the source; for instance, 250 words might be allowed without permission from a source of 35,000 words, but 100 words from a source of 1,000 words might require permission. This, of course, applies only to material still under copyright.

        Notice of copyright is found on the title page, or page immediately following, in a book. In periodicals, it is on the masthead or first page of the text. 

        If the material is taken from a source older than 75 years, check for credit lines in footnotes, notes, acknowledgments, etc., for the copyright date for that particular item. A book’s copyright does not cover material that was taken from some other printed source. That printed source would have its own copyright date.

How to Request Permission:

        Authors are to write directly to the copyright holder. If that is the publisher, the address will be given on the title page or copyright page. If the holder is the author, or someone else, and no address is given, write your request to the holder and mail it to the publisher with instructions to forward it to the copyright holder. This applies to both books and periodicals.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Quotations of Poetry: Never quote more than one or two lines of a copyrighted poem without securing written permission from the copyright owner. Always give proper credit. In quoting poetry from a secondary source (book, magazine, or anthology), secure permission from the copyright owner of the poem.

Note: This rule also applies to hymns and music texts, unless the hymnal (or the specific hymn used) is in public domain. Always write to the owner of the copyright (if one is listed with the hymn) to secure permission to use all or part of a hymn. The title of a song or hymn may be used without permission. Also ask permission if you want to put new words to a familiar tune, arrange someone else’s music for a special application, or anything that casts their work into a new product.

Sunday, October 23, 2016



If a book contains a statement on the copyright page that explicitly requires written permissions, write for permission for quotations of any length.
  1. Quoting 100 words in a short article is inappropriate. Proportion is sometimes more important than actual length of a quotation. Follow The Chicago Manual of Style in its suggestions about “fair use.”
  2. Always write for permission to quote from any of the writings of Bruce Larson, Keith Miller, or C. S. Lewis.
  3. Although Zondervan is the publisher of Streams in the Desert, they are unable to grant permission to quote from that book. Since the author got permission for only one-time use of each quote contained in the book, permission to quote the quotes must come from the original authors or publishers, not from Zondervan. This may be true of other quotation books as well.
  4. Write for permission if the author’s phraseology has come to be closely identified with the author’s unique way of stating an issue or an idea.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


     * Send a written request to the attention of the “Permissions Administrator” or “Permissions Department.” Since the name of this department or desk varies from company to company, it is best to call ahead and ask who to direct permissions requests to.
  1. Indicate exactly which paragraphs or pages you plan to use or duplicate.
  2. If making copies (for a handout, for example), tell how many copies you plan to make.
  3. Tell how you plan to distribute the material: in a book, for commercial sale , non-profit, handout, giveaway, etc.
  4. If the material is to be used in a publication (such as a magazine, newspaper or newsletter), tell how many pages there are in the publication, and what the selling price will be.
Note: See format for permission’s letter in next posting.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


If what you want to quote is in a magazine, write directly to the magazine for permission. If the publisher bought only first or one-time rights, the author owns the copyright and he/she is the only one who can grant permission. In that case, the magazine will usually forward your request to the copyright holder if they don’t own it. You can ask them to do that in your request letter.

If you find the quote you want to use in a book, check the copyright date in the book. If older than 75 years, you can use it without permission. If less than 70 years, determine whether the copyright is in the name of the publisher or author (copyright notice is usually on the back of the title page (sometimes on the front of that page). If copyrighted in the publisher’s name, send the letter asking permission to them. If in the author’s name, prepare the permission letter addressed to the author in a separate envelope and include it in a letter to the publisher asking them to forward it to the author.

If the book publisher has gone out of business, do not assume you can go ahead and use the material without permission. Someone still owns or controls those copyrights and you need to get permission before using them. You may then contact the Copyright Information Office. They will be able to tell you who the current copyright owner is for that particular book.

Prose Quotations: The policies of publishers vary regarding quoting from their publications without specific permission. Usually you need not write for permission to quote phrases or brief sentences. Publishers do not want to be bothered by requests to quote just a few words. The nature and importance of the material to be quoted will give guidance at this point. The two factors every publisher expects are (1) accuracy in quoting, and (2) the giving of proper credit.

Friday, October 14, 2016


Author’s Responsibility

If it is necessary to obtain permission to use quotes from other sources, it is the author’s responsibility to do so. When the quote is to be used in a magazine, seek the permissions before you submit the article to a publisher. Any permissions needed for a book should not be requested until you have a buyer for the book, since permissions are often given to a particular publisher for a specific project and may expire after a certain time.

If you are not sure if certain quotes require permission, your publisher can usually advise you. Book publishers often have a rights and permissions department that reviews each manuscript for that purpose.

Be aware that some authors and publishers grant permissions for quotes only if you pay a fee set by them. If such a fee is charged, you will be responsible to pay it—not the publisher—so you will have to decide if the quote is worth the asking price. If not, delete or replace it.

With many publishers, the need for permission, or the fee set, are based on how important the quote is to your article or book, and how predominant a place it will have in your work. In other words, if it is just a quote within the text somewhere, it is more likely to be considered fair use. But if it is going to be highlighted, printed in a box or used to introduce a new chapter, they may want payment. The grim reality is that at many houses, you will be asked to pay for the quote—even if it should be fair use—just because you asked. For that reason, it does not pay to be too cautious and ask permission for every quote—whether you think you need to or not. You could end up paying much more than you need to. It is also encouraging to note that few infringement cases are brought against authors of books and articles—most have to do with TV, drama, movies, etc. where much more money is involved. At the same time, don’t let the slim possibility that you will be sued deter you from making wise and informed decisions about when you should or should not ask permission. Common sense may be your best guide.

Monday, October 10, 2016


The terms for when and how you are to be paid for a book are all covered in your book contract. It should indicate that you will be paid royalties once or twice a year (contract says which), and by what specific dates. Be sure to provide yourself with reminders so you can follow-up if the payments are not forthcoming when due. Since most publishers make these payments 90 days after the end of the accounting period, there is no reason for royalty payments to be late. If you have an agent, it will be his/her job to deal with this kind of problem.

Following are some typical problems and how to deal with them yourself:

  1. If your royalty payment does not arrive on time, call the editor you worked with on the book and ask them to check into it for you. Follow up with a letter to the editor (reiterating your phone conversation) and another letter to the accounting department asking if the royalty payments have been sent out, and if so, letting them know you have not received yours. If you have been paid on time in earlier accounting periods, assume this is an oversight or lost check. If this is your first royalty payment, be more aggressive—although it could be that the royalty account has not been set up or set up correctly. In any case, you will want to correct any problems immediately.
  2. If this is a reputable publisher, the editor will likely follow through to correct any problems and be sure you receive your check. If the editor is evasive or uncooperative, you may have more to worry about. Don’t let the situation slide—follow through immediately and persistently until you are paid.
  3. Most book publishers pay on time, so if you have trouble getting paid it is usually a good sign that the publishing house is in financial trouble. In that is the case, it is usually best to follow the “squeaky wheel” principle. Let the publisher know that if you do not receive payment within two weeks, you will take legal action to collect.
  4. In some cases you may be paid on time, but you have serious questions about whether your sales were reported accurately or you were paid according to the terms of your contract. Always study your royalty statement carefully, and ask questions if there is anything you don’t understand. Royalty statements are typically impossible to interpret, so don’t be intimidated. Ask those questions until you get satisfactory answers.
  5. If the answers aren’t satisfactory—and you suspect something is amiss—your contract should give you the option of paying an accountant to audit the publisher’s books in relationship to your royalty account. If the auditor finds a discrepancy of 15% or more (or the percentage indicated in your contract), they must pay that, plus the cost of the audit. Always check your contract to see what your options are (and try to get this clause added to any of your contracts before you sign them).
  6. Occasionally the problem in payment may be a difference of opinion about how the contract is interpreted, or you may discover that they are not abiding by the terms of the contract in calculating your royalties. For example, the contract may stipulate that if they sell books at a greater than 50% discount to bookstores or distributors, that you will get only half the usual royalty on those sales. That is a typical clause, but your publisher may be offering that higher discount on all sales to avoid paying you full royalties. You can challenge them in such a case, especially if the contract indicates that this is to be an untypical discount. It is best to have it written right into the contract that such discounts will be limited to a certain percentage, but you can still likely win in court if the publisher is not living up to an industry standard or an author’s logical expectations.
  7. Since most publishing contracts today do not allow you to sue your publisher, if you get no satisfaction in collecting your royalties or resolving differences of opinion, you may have no recourse except arbitration (which most contracts indicate).
  8. Any time you have problems of any sort with your contract, always check the terms of your contract to see how to proceed. If legal action is called for, contact an attorney who is well versed in literary matters, and understands how the publishing industry operates.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


It is possible to write about a person—even in a negative light—without having to ask their permission. However, if what you say is presented as fact, you must be able to verify it as the truth. On the other hand, if it is offered only as an opinion, that is protected by the First Amendment. Making a statement as fact—that you can’t prove—may open you up to a libel suit.

Realize that you can write negatively about a person using a different name, but if they are readily recognizable from the incident or situation described, you can still be open to libel charges.

It is always best to use two criteria for avoiding libel suits. From a legal standpoint, never write anything for publication that is not true and verifiable. From an ethical standpoint, always ask yourself if there is anything to be lost or gained by using their real name.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


There are no legal technicalities involved in becoming a ghostwriter. You simply hang out your shingle. As a ghostwriter, you are basically a surrogate writer for someone—often an expert or celebrity—who does not have the time or talent to do the writing themselves. They (or often their publisher) will hire you to do the actual writing. They have total control over the content and you simply write what they want the way they want it written. Depending on the type of book, you often must write it from their point of view—or as if they were telling the story themselves. In ghostwriting you will not have your name on the book and may or may not be given credit inside for “editorial contributions.”

Once you have agreed to accept a ghostwriting job, you may need to have a contract between you and the subject, that lays out how and when you will be paid. Such a contract may not be necessary for articles, especially for customers you have worked with before, as long as they have agreed to your estimate or quote for payment. When the job is completed, along with the finished manuscript, give them an invoice for the work done, based on your agreement.

However, with a book project, you will need a contract with the source person or their publisher. If a publisher is involved from the beginning, it may be a good idea to meet with both the source and the publisher before starting to be sure you are all in agreement as to what kind of book you are to produce and how/when you will be paid. Ghostwriters are generally paid a flat fee—rather than a percentage of the royalties as you might get with a co-authoring contract. When the publisher is paying, your fee may be all or part of the advance. If the source is paying you, be sure the contract indicates that you will be paid whether or not the book actually sells. Generally, the amount you will be paid is based on your experience, credentials, and the length/difficulty of the project. Know what it will take to make this a viable project for you before entering into the negotiation process. If the source/publisher cannot or will not meet that amount, and attempts at negotiating fail, then be prepared to turn down the offer.

If you agree on payment, you will also need to determine when you will be paid. Often you will get half the payment before you begin, and the second half on completion of the project. If it’s a rush project and you won’t be able to work on other paying projects at the same time, you could ask for a greater percentage up front to support you during the work.

The contract or negotiations should also indicate whether or not you will have an expense account. If you will need to fly to meet with the source one or more times (which also involves housing and meals), there will be long-distance calls involved, postage to mail drafts back and forth, and the like, you will want to be sure someone else is paying those expenses.

Monday, October 3, 2016


Since this whole area of Fair Use can be confusing, I have contacted some publishers about what kind of guidelines they use for their editors and authors. Below is a list of guidelines used by a major book publisher. Again, this list is not meant to be the definitive answer to these questions, but it can be used as a general guide to put this all into perspective.

        1. Poetry: One line may be used without seeking permission; two lines or more require permission if the poem is not in public domain.

        2. Books of Prose: 501 or more words require permission. (This IS an arbitrary limit and will be altered in some cases.) This means a total of 501 words from the same source quoted throughout a manuscript, not necessarily just one quotation.

  1. Article or other brief prose works: 101 or more words require permission. (Again, this is an arbitrary limit and may vary in some cases.)

  1. Drama: 76 or more words require permission. This is an arbitrary limit and its validity will depend on whether the quotation is one continuous passage or a few words picked up from throughout the play.

      5. Music: Permission must be obtained for any copyrighted music used.

  1. Song lyrics: See poetry; same guidelines.

  1. Any material complete in itself: Permission must be obtained for use of entire short stories, essays, a chapter from a book, a prayer, an article, table, chart, map, graph, photograph, cartoon, drawing, etc.

  1. Unpublished material: This is protected, and permission from the owner for even the briefest excerpt must be obtained. Remember: letters (the content) belong to the person who wrote them, not to the recipient. You must have written consent from the writer of the letter in order to quote from it, unless the writer is deceased.

  1. Anthologies: Obtain permission for anything under copyright within the anthology.

  1. Case studies, counseling tapes, etc.: This material is usually not under copyright, but use without permission may constitute invasion of privacy.
  2. Parodies: A parody is usually intended to make fun of something. If you create a parody based on someone else’s material, it is best to get permission for such use.
  3. Your material from Periodicals: When you plan to quote something you have said in a periodical, the new publisher may want a written confirmation from the original publisher that you have retained or control the copyright in the work.
Note: No permission is required for quoting works in the public domain. However, whether permission is needed or not, authors must give credit to their sources.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


        One of the most confusing aspects of the copyright law is the understanding and application of Fair Use. In this context Fair Use refers to the use of quotes from other people’s writings without asking permission. The problem is that the Fair Use guidelines in the copyright law are just that—guidelines. They do not give specific parameters, only general ones. The Fair Use section of the copyright law specifies four factors we must take into consideration when using quotes for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. The four factors to consider are (followed by my explanation):

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

Obviously you are more likely to qualify under this one if you are using it for nonprofit or educational purposes, rather than in an article or book you are planning to sell. It may still qualify for commercial purposes if it meets the following guidelines.

  1. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

Next, consider how large a quote you are using in relation to the entire piece you are quoting from. A one-page quote from a book is more likely to be acceptable, than a paragraph from a 500-word filler.

  1. The nature of the copyrighted work.

Is the quote from a poem or song? If so, you probably need permission. Is what you are quoting primarily factual or is it creative? If factual, you have more leeway here. If it is creative material (as opposed to factual), and more than just a line or two, you may need to ask permission.

  1. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

One of the most important considerations is whether you’re using this quote will help or hurt the author. If it leads others to seek out his/her material, it may help. If it actually replaces the market for that author’s material, then it will hurt. Simply ask yourself if you would be upset if someone else quoted you in a similar situation without asking permission. If so, ask.

A good example of inappropriate use here would be if you were writing a book on “How to Lead Bible Studies,” found a book on “10 Ways to Lead an Effective Bible Study”, pulled out that author’s basic list of 10 ways and wrote your own explanation of how to implement those 10 ways. In this case you have jeopardizes the market for their book by replacing it with your own.

Some writers mistakenly believe that if they paraphrase another author’s work, they will not have a problem from a “fair use” standpoint. They may be wrong. If they are paraphrasing a substantial portion, they may in fact be stealing the essence of that writer’s work—a violation of his/her copyright.