How to Request and Secure Permission to Use Copyrighted Text in Your Book or Film

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and create derivatives of their works. Most others, like filmmakers and distributors and publishers must obtain permission from the copyright owner to lawfully engage in any of these activities. In this post, I will highlight basic ideas on how I and you can secure permission for copyrighted text for your film or book.

Before you decide to use the copyrighted written idea for use in your film or book ask yourself –

Is the material protected under copyright law? Knowing when a work was published or if legal requirements were met is helpful in determining if a work can be used without permission.

General Notes about Securing Permission for Copyrighted Text:

• Usually for text, it is common for Authors/ Agents to charge $150 for a regular permission to license text.

• Copyright Law usually protects text works after 1922.
• If copyright law does not protect it, the owner did not renew the copyright or the work did not minimal standards for copyright protection.

• The Fair Use Law permits you to copy small portions of work for certain purposes such as scholarship or commentary; commentary is usually another writer’s opinion on something.

Exclusive and Non Exclusive Rights:

• A Permissions Agreement that is exclusive is if you are the only person who has the right to use the work as described in the agreement.
• Most permission agreements are nonexclusive and others can use the material in the same way.

For Terms of Use for Permission Agreements:

• Usually, it is a general period of time between 2-6 years, while some agreements prohibit the copyright owner from revoking rights by granting permission irrevocably.

For Territory that a Licensee can Use Text:

• May be limited to a certain geographical area but it is subjective, ask for terms first through the author or agency.

More Notes about Securing Permission for Copyrighted Text:

• Permissions should be obtained before you complete or budget for the work
and start the completion of the work for obvious reasons.

• Sometimes the owner of the work will not require payments, because some artists eager for exposure may agree to suspend payments unless the work becomes profitable or on other factors.

• If you hire someone to create a work, the business will retain the rights only if they are the employee of your company and not just a freelancer. Basically, the company pays them for the job or gives weekly or monthly payments.

• A right of publicity is when a persons name or image is used on for example a cereal box. Have to contact the owner for this, if you are displaying owners name on advertising material.

• If the text is written by two authors- you need permission from both of them.

• Permission to photocopy and distribute materials is online at http://www.copyright.com, CCC clears millions of works through their representatives international and national – it costs 120 membership yearly fee and additional charges for use, they may waive the fee for one time users.

• Unpublished works created after 1978, are protected for the life of the authors plus 70 years.

• Publication does not occur when copies are made and not distributed, only when the text is publicly performed or displayed.

Locating Publishers:

• International Literary Marketplace- http://www.bowker.com/main/home/index.html – searchable online for a fee – books currently available for sale- call them first
• The University of Texas – http://www.lib.utexas.edu/libs/HRC/WATCH/ – has addresses for authors, artists and their copyright holders in US and UK libraries

Paraphrasing and Infringement:

• You have to radically paraphrase work to be so disguised as to be unrecognizable is not copying. It is kind of impossible..

Using Facts:

• You don’t need to ask for permission if you are using facts or fact based theories.
• But you can’t copy more than the facts, which is the expression of them or the arrangement.

• If you don’t have an exclusive agreement your license or permission doesn’t have to be written or valid.

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2 thoughts on “How to Request and Secure Permission to Use Copyrighted Text in Your Book or Film

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