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Copyright and Permissions

Copyright-Protected Material and Requesting Permission for Its Use

It is very important that you understand that if you have used copyrighted text, images, art, screenshots, song or poem lyrics, or other content elements from any other source (printed, online, or in any other form) in your book, you must have permission to use those items from the copyright holder. In limited circumstances, the Fair Use doctrine may apply—so that you are not required to obtain permission. However, navigating the waters of what constitutes Fair Use can be confusing and unclear.

Many authors are familiar with the term “Fair Use,” but few truly understand its implications. This term does not mean that you have the right to use copyrighted materials as you see fit. Under the Fair Use doctrine, certain minimal, commercially insignificant portions of a copyrighted work can be copied, quoted, or paraphrased for purposes of comment, criticism, illustration, or education. (See The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, for more information on Fair Use.)

The law does not always provide clear and definitive guidelines for what constitutes Fair Use, so the publishing industry has tried to create guidelines for authors to follow. This document offers a brief overview of those guidelines. Keep in mind, however, that these guidelines are not definitive, exhaustive, or conclusive and should not be considered legal advice. Following these guidelines does NOT ensure that you will not be in violation of copyright laws if you use copyrighted materials without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. The information contained in these guidelines is not a substitute for consulting with a lawyer regarding your use of any copyrighted materials. If you have questions or concerns about the content in your manuscript, you should consult an attorney. If you are not sure if your use of certain material would be considered Fair Use, you should err on the side of caution and obtain permission.

Download a sample permission letter.

Download a sample model release.

Download a sample photo permission agreement.

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