Permissions Guidelines

In addition to submitting your manuscript file(s) and complete art program, you will also need to provide permissions for the art and text in your book. We require documentation to reproduce all copyrighted material, which includes previously published materials, images, unpublished materials, and quotations from interviews. Copyright can be complex and nuanced, so please consult the information we’ve provided here for more detailed information on fair use and guidance on common permissions situations.

Clearing permissions is a crucial step that affects how your book can be sold and licensed. Permissions restrictions may limit which subsidiary rights we can license, where we can sell your book, and whether we can publish an ebook. For example, a single permission granting use for “English language” would make it hard to license your book for translations. Ideally, we ask that you seek permission for nonexclusive world rights, in all languages, and in all formats (print and digital), but you should discuss an overall permissions strategy with your acquisitions editor. While we don’t offer legal advice, we can often guide you to helpful resources, including templates for requesting permission.

Author Log (Microsoft Excel)
Text Permission Form (PDF) | Microsoft Word
Image Permission Form (PDF) | Microsoft Word
Interview Release (PDF) | Microsoft Word
Work Made-for-Hire Agreement (PDF) | Microsoft Word

Basics of Copyright

Many types of intellectual work enjoy copyright protection; these include prose, poetry, music, song lyrics, photographs, visual art, plays, unpublished works, and films. If you are using material that is under copyright—that is, is not in the public domain—you will need permission unless your treatment of the material falls under the doctrine of “fair use.”

International copyright law varies greatly. You need to understand the basics of copyright in countries from which your work uses material. If your permissions paperwork is in a foreign language, please be extra diligent to clearly document all information in the author log in English.

Fair Use

The use of short excerpts from copyrighted text and the selective use of copyrighted images for the purposes of scholarship, review, criticism, evidence, or evaluation are generally recognized as fair use and do not require permission. We recommend that you follow best practices for your field or discipline to guide fair-use considerations. Copyright law does not clearly define fair use. In determining fair use, four factors should be simultaneously considered:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is transformative, is of a commercial nature, or is for nonprofit educational purposes (small, black-and-white treatment of an image is more likely to be considered fair use than a full-page, color treatment);
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work (nonfiction or fiction, highly creative, published or unpublished, etc.);
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole copyrighted work (the proportion is more important than the length of a quote); and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

Public Domain

Each January, new work enters the public domain. All copyrighted work eventually enters the public domain, where it can be used without permission, though full credit should be given to the source. The timeline for a copywritten work’s entry into the public domain depends on its date of publication. For example, on January 1, 2022, copyrighted works published in 1926 and before entered the public domain. For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional seventy years. Assessing the term of copyright depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. Once you have determined the year the work was created, tools such as the public domain chart from Cornell University should help you assess each item.

Publishing Your Own Previously Published Work

Read your original contract carefully to see whether you or the publisher controls publishing rights. Even if your name is on the copyright notice, the publisher may still control publishing rights. If you do not control rights, you must obtain either an assignment of copyright or nonexclusive permission from the publisher of any portion of your own work (in book or journal form) that you intend to include in your new book. If the publisher will not assign the copyright, request nonexclusive permission to reprint in all languages and in all editions of your book. Publishers usually are accommodating and will likely grant permission for republication without a fee.

If the new version of your work is derived from a previously published version (as in the case of a revision or adaptation), you may need permission from the previous publisher, even if the changes are substantial. However, you do not need permission if the present work is based on the same subject as, but does not duplicate the same expression of, the previously published work, unless you have signed an agreement with a noncompete clause that requires the consent of the originating publisher.

Photographs, Art, and Other Images

You will need to secure copyright and reproduction permissions for art and images. For example, an artist or estate may own copyright, but a gallery or archive may supply you with the image file. If the image is in the public domain, then you will need to secure only permission to reproduce.

Film Stills

Basic fair-use standards apply, but the film industry generally recognizes the reproduction of film stills and publicity photos as fair use in scholarly works.


If you are quoting from interviews, it is preferable to have a written release. The wording should conform to ethical guidelines required by professional organizations in your field. If extensive material from the interview will be quoted, an assignment of copyright may be necessary. If quotations are anonymous or the interviewee is deceased, permission is not required.

Song Lyrics and Poetry

In many cases, quoting two to four lines (or ten seconds of playing time transcribed) may fall under fair use, but never more than 10 percent of the whole work. For quotations of lyrics and poetry that do not fall under fair use, secure permission using the Text Permission Form.

Unpublished Material

Permission is required for use of unpublished material, such as private letters, diaries, and manuscripts. In fact, the bar is somewhat higher for fair-use determination with unpublished material. Unpublished work also eventually enters the public domain. (Use public domain resources to determine the date.) Keep in mind that work doesn’t have to be published or registered to fall under copyright. It is under copyright when it is in a fixed format.


While cited quotations in the text itself typically fall under fair use, epigraphs don’t always meet fair-use criteria and frequently require permission. Try to keep epigraphs short. Consider the treatment of the epigraph. If the text of an epigraph is discussed in the chapter itself, its reproduction is likely fair use. If the quoted text is being used decoratively, as a scene-setter, permission is required. Epigraphs located in the front matter of a book require permission. Avoid epigraphs taken from unpublished sources. Also, be aware of particularly restrictive or litigious estates.

US Government Material

Most US government publications and photographs fall within the public domain, but this does not necessarily include material owned by the US government, such as material in the Library of Congress or the National Archives. You will need to research state or local government records carefully to determine if they are in the public domain.

Good-Faith Effort

In cases where fair use does not apply, you are legally obligated to make every reasonable effort to get permission from the copyright holders. Failure to locate a copyright holder will leave you liable for copyright infringement, but a documented “good-faith” effort can mitigate damages. In these instances, keep copies of correspondence for the contract file and note your efforts in the author log.

Consent to Publish from Contributors

If your book contains contributions that are not works made for hire, you must obtain consent from each contributor. This is most common in edited collections of essays. Consent can be for either exclusive or nonexclusive rights. Your editor will provide you with the appropriate agreement for your project.

Work Made for Hire

Paying someone to produce material for your book does not give you copyright to the work. You become the copyright owner and author if (1) both parties sign a contract stating this is a “work made for hire,” (2) the material is produced at your request and expense, (3) the agreement is signed before work has commenced, and (4) the material falls into one of the categories of works made for hire (maps, graphs, illustrations, indexes, translations, etc.). A work can also be “made for hire” if it is made by an employee within the scope of employment. Though it is not necessary, as a courtesy you may provide a credit line or other acknowledgment.

Cover Image Permission

If you have an image that you think should be used on the cover, discuss it with your editor. If it accepted, then you may be asked to get permission for cover use. If the decision about the cover image is made by the press, we will seek permission on your behalf.

Permissions Templates

Author Log (Microsoft Excel)
Text Permission Form (PDF) | Microsoft Word
Image Permission Form (PDF) | Microsoft Word
Interview Release (PDF) | Microsoft Word
Work Made-for-Hire Agreement (PDF) | Microsoft Word