Permissions Information

Permissions Information
(from the Guide to Manuscript Preparation)


Download this page as a Word doc here.

As author of your MS, you are legally responsible for obtaining permissions to use copyrighted material created or owned by others and for complying with privacy and libel laws. We cannot offer legal advice; however, the guidelines below are intended as a general aid for our authors. You are also responsible for preparing acknowledgments and credit lines for illustrations, paying permissions fees, and, eventually, providing complimentary copies when they have been requested as a condition of permission.

Because the permissions-seeking process can be remarkably protracted, it is wise to begin writing for permissions as soon as you sign your contract with the Press. Please feel free to confer with your acquisitions editor about what permissions are necessary to obtain.

In writing for permission, please use our sample permission request letters as templates. It is important that the rights granted not be restricted (e.g., that they not be limited to the North American market, or not exclude digital/electronic editions), as restrictions of rights for even a single illustration will limit the market for your book and the way in which it can be sold. If a rights holder restricts the rights granted, please contact the rights holder again to see whether world rights for all editions of the work (including digital/electronic) might be reasonably negotiated. If rights holders are reluctant to allow digital/electronic use, you might underscore that digital/electronic editions of works are simply digitized versions of the book, typically sold to academic libraries, and that UVaP is a nonprofit, scholarly publisher.

For previously published material, direct your written requests to the publisher, not to the author. Even when the copyright appears in the author’s name, the publisher often contractually controls the rights to reprint material.

It is important to note that if you are in doubt whether permission is required for a particular item, please check with your acquisitions editor or with the managing editor before seeking permission. Unnecessarily requesting permission endangers the principle of fair use and may result in otherwise avoidable fees.

We will ask that you complete a Permissions Log. Completing this log fully and accurately and returning it with your final manuscript will enable us to move forward as quickly as possible. Along with the log, you will need to send us photocopies of letters or forms granting you permission for the use of copyrighted material so that we can see that any special requirements with regard to cropping and to wording and placement of credit are fulfilled. (Copy both sides if there is any writing on the back. Keep the original letters for your files.)

No MS will move forward for copyediting until all necessary permissions have been obtained, so it is crucial that any final permissions issues be resolved and all permissions letters be on hand by the time you send your final MS to your acquisitions editor. The appendix to this guide contains sample letters for requesting permission; these samples are also posted on our website.

Permission versus Acknowledgment
Bear in mind the relationship between permission and acknowledgment. Permission is granted by a rights holder for the use of copyrighted material (published or unpublished, text or image) that does not fall within fair-use guidelines. Acknowledgment is your printed recognition of the contribution of material not your own, even if you are using material in the public domain or material covered by fair-use guidelines. Materials requiring permission always require acknowledgment; other materials warrant only acknowledgment.

Fair and Unfair Use of Copyrighted Material
You will need to secure written permission to quote previously published written or illustrative material if it is still in copyright and if your use exceeds fair use. The “fair use” of properly attributed copyrighted material is permitted by law, but the extent and limits of fair use itself are not defined by word count alone. Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 states that four factors are to be considered in determining fair use:

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

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Thus, in a scholarly work, brief extracts from published sources may generally be used for criticism or comment without permission if the source is cited. However, you should not quote at such length from another source as to diminish its value. Proportion is to be considered: to use 500 words from a 5,000-word essay may exceed fair use, whereas quoting 500 words from a work of 50,000 probably does not. Quoting briefly from published prose sources is allowed by fair use; using whole chapters is not.

Be particularly careful about the use of poetry and song lyrics. Quoting more than a few lines of song lyrics without seeking permission is inadvisable if the lyrics are still in copyright. Again, however, proportion is an issue.

That said, if your work is, for example, a work of poetry criticism, it’s possible that including larger portions of a poem, or even an entire poem, might be considered fair use when such use is critical to an essay’s argument. To qualify for fair use, however, it is not necessarily enough for an excerpt to be illustrating an argument; the quoted material may well need to be a crucial part of the argument. In all cases, in trying to meet the definitions of fair use, quotations should be pared down to what’s necessary, and please remember that paraphrasing can often work well in conveying a point.

If you are reprinting your own material from a collective work published after 1 January 1978, you need to request permission from the publisher only if you transferred your rights to that material by an express written agreement. Whether or not you need a formal permission letter, you should list such previous publication in a paragraph in your acknowledgments. Provide us with a photocopy of a statement from the publisher indicating that copyright is in your name, that copyright has been transferred to you, or that permission is being granted for publication in your current MS. If a chapter in the present MS does not entirely duplicate text you have published previously (e.g., a journal article or a chapter in an edited volume), we need to know what percentage of the present chapter is contained in the previous publication. Please also indicate the date of your signed contract for the earlier publication.

If after signing your contract with the Press you wish to publish any portion of your MS in another venue, contact your acquisitions editor. He or she will then advise you to make your request in writing to the University of Virginia Press, Rights and Permissions.

Manuscript Materials
Both copyright protection and the principle of fair use apply to manuscript materials, including letters. (Please be aware that these issues are more ambiguous than with published materials, however; public regulations or private restrictions unrelated to copyright may restrict the use of unpublished material.) If permission to quote from unpublished materials is necessary, it should be obtained from both the owner of the literary rights (the author, author’s heirs, or designated representative) and the owner of the property (the possessor, often a repository), if these rights are held separately. The custodian of the collection—usually a librarian or archivist—is the best source of information, including on what permissions must be sought and from whom.

Government Documents
Government documents (including state and local jurisdictions) are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced or quoted.

You do not need an interviewee’s permission to publish an interview that you record. (Spoken words are not protected by copyright, and you hold the copyright to your own transcription or recording.) However, it is wise to obtain a release that indicates that the subject understands she or he may be quoted in a published work. If an interviewee will be named in your book, you need a written release indicating that the interviewee consents to being named. Should the interviewee wish to remain anonymous, you must ensure the person is not identifiable, taking care to change a number of personal characteristics in your text. In addition, be careful not to include material from your interview that might be grounds for a claim of invasion of privacy or of libel. A sample release letter appears in the appendix to this guide.

Obtaining permission for illustrations is perhaps even more time-consuming and undoubtedly more expensive than for text. As with manuscript materials, there are two separate and distinct legal protections for illustrations: one is extended to the owner (library, archives, other institution, or private individual) of the item, and the other is extended to the holder of the copyright (if there is one, normally the photographer or artist or that person’s heirs). That a photograph or other piece of visual art carries no copyright notice does not necessarily mean it is in the public domain. It is your responsibility to ascertain its status from the institution holding it. The institution in turn should alert you if further permission is required from an owner of publishing rights, that is, the copyright holder. However, again, if in doubt whether permission is required for a particular image, please check with your acquisitions editor or with the managing editor before seeking permission. Some would argue that if a work is discussed in a critical, scholarly context, used in the same manner as a textual quote, to illuminate a specific point, the reproduction of an image may be considered fair use.

Redrawn Maps and Other Graphics
If an existing map has been used as a “base” map, for basic geographic reference, but the redrawn map is substantially and substantively changed—is altogether different in final form—the use of the original map would likely be considered fair use. However, if the redrawn map reproduces much of the same information as the original, even if redrawn or adapted somewhat, if the original map is under copyright, permission for adapting that material will likely need to be sought from the copyright holder. The same holds true for charts, figures, and other graphics that have been redrawn.

Film Publicity Stills and Frame Enlargements
Publicity stills and frame enlargements from film and television may be used without permission as long as your use falls under fair-use guidelines. If an image is simply decorative, you must seek permission. However, if you use the image in the same manner as a textual quote, in a scholarly manner, to illuminate a specific point, the use may be considered fair use. Where possible, limit the number of frames used from any one film or show. If purchasing material from a photo agency, read all conditions printed on the back of the image or on your agreement very carefully. Be sure to acknowledge the copyright holder and the source of the image in your caption credit line.

Photograph Releases
If you plan to use a photograph taken in a private place of a person who is identifiable in the photo, you must obtain a written release. In addition, if an identifiable person in a photo might be harmed or embarrassed by your use, you will need a written release. And if you plan to use an image for commercial purposes (e.g., on a book jacket, if the photo does not illustrate the book’s editorial content), you will also need a release. A sample release letter appears in the appendix to this guide.

If you have hired a cartographer, illustrator, photographer, or translator, for instance, to provide graphics or translated text for your work, the copyright is yours. No permission is needed from that person; however, you do need a written contract stating that the material was created as a work-for-hire, and it must be clear that the work was created specifically for you—at your direction and at your expense. If an employee creates a work within the scope of his or her employment (for example, a cartographer working for your university library system), that work is also considered made for hire.


Some Useful Links

Copyright basics from the Library of Congress:
Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act, pertaining to fair use:


Information on fair use from the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center:


A detailed table explaining the length of copyright term and when works enter the public domain, including information on works published outside the U.S.:


A brief table listing when U.S. works pass into the public domain:


Information on determining whether copyright has been renewed:


Permission FAQs from the Association of American University Presses