The requirement for reuse of content may range from use of a short extract to translation rights of a whole book or adaptation of a book to a film. The process for acquiring the rights needed is different depending on the type of reuse required.
Permission or consent of the copyright owner or controller is needed when no exception applies and use of the work would otherwise infringe copyright.
Rights are usually granted in the form of a licence (also called a permission when related to a small part of a whole work like a short extract or an illustration or image). In publishing, rights sales for translations of whole books or to publish in another country or to be used for a film are commonly handled by specialist professionals. Permission for use of short extracts can be obtained through negotiation between the rights holder and the requestor. An initial approach is made to the copyright owner, wherever they may be in the world, setting out which content and where and how it is to be used. The copyright owner will decide whether to grant permission and what should be charged. There is no set process or timeframe for discussions. Publishers may have webpages or specific contacts that act as starting points for permission requests, or may use a third party provider (see below). If a contact cannot be identified, permissions requests can start with contacting the publisher’s office When rights are granted by licence, the copyright owner retains overall ownership while allowing another party some specific rights. This enables the copyright owner to maintain control of rights and restrict how they are used. Licences can take various forms and the detail of the rights granted should be recorded in writing.
Rights holders will require comprehensive details of the content that is being requested, such as the ISBN and edition of a title, page numbers for the relevant content, and a clear outline of how and where it is to be reused. Many rights holders will have a standard form or template for requests, and it is important that all the required information is supplied. The more information is provided upfront the quicker the process.
The length of the permissions process varies, according to the content that is sought, its intended use, the complexity of copyright in the content and the follow-up requests for information that are needed. Rights can take some time to clear, and not all copyright owners are able to give quick responses. Delays may be frustrating, but content should not be used until express permission is obtained. A lack of response is not an indication that content may be used, and there is no guarantee that permission will be granted as the copyright owner has absolute discretion.
Yes. If someone wants to reuse or adapt an image, photograph or illustration, permission must be sought. Copyright in images and photographs is a particularly complex area and a publisher may not have the rights to grant a further licence. The subjects of photographs or illustrations may themselves also be subject to copyright. For example, a photograph that includes a famous painting may incorporate copyright content of both the photographer and the painter. If there is any doubt about ownership of images and their use, legal advice should be sought.
Fees are at the discretion of the rights holder. If you receive permission to use content, the copyright owner may provide standard terms to indicate acknowledgement. Credits should clearly identify the copyright owner of the content used.
The publisher of content is usually the first point of contact. However, there are many exceptions to this, as there may be a number of rights involved and a publisher will not always own the full copyright in the content. For example, they may have licensed an image from an agency or a library. The acknowledgements pages of books could indicate where the original rights lie.
It is sometimes assumed that authors can grant permission for their content to be used, but they may not hold the rights to do so if they have transferred their rights to a publisher. Authors should be clear on their ownership of rights before granting or declining consent, and consult with the publisher of the content if there is doubt.
Yes. For example, PLS Permissions is a service that makes it easier and quicker for copyright owners and prospective users of content to manage the permissions process. By acting as a one-stop shop for permissions, it saves the need to trace copyright owners and approach them directly.
There are some exceptions to copyright (see below). There are also many instances in which the limitations to copyright are unclear, and there may not be straightforward answers to what appear to be simple questions about reuse. If you are in any doubt about the copyright status of content, you should seek legal advice and obtain clear consent before using it.
The IPO has advice and contacts about Intellectual Property and copyright. Legal advice should be sought in respect of any queries.