Copyright Qs & As: Permission to Use Copyright Materials

9.1 Question: My organization is developing a course on work habits to be used for internal purposes only for all of our employees. We are gathering articles from various academic and non-academic publications. Is it necessary to obtain permission to use these articles in our course materials?

Answer: You will need permission to use the articles in your course materials, even if the materials will only be distributed internally. You may be able to obtain permission from the authors or publishers of the articles, or from a photocopying copyright collective such as the Copyright Clearance Center (in the U.S.) or Access Copyright (in Canada). (2007-1)

9.2 Question: I am translating a book from French into English. Do I approach the publisher or author of the French book for permission to do so? And who owns the rights in the English translation?

Answer: Good assumption that you need to obtain permission to translate a book. Contact either the publisher or author – whoever is easier to reach. Then ask them who owns the rights in the French book (as this would be subject to a publishing agreement.) The translator of a work owns the copyright in the translation, in this case, the English version. (2007-4)

9.3 Question: My enterprise organizes an annual essay writing contest. We post the winning entries on our Web site and distribute a DVD with all entries. Do we need permission to do this?

Answer: Yes, copyright in an essay belongs to the author of that essay. This is true even in a contest situation. Your contest entry form could include permission from the author to you for any uses you need to make of the entry. For winning entries, you may want to go further and obtain permission to use the name of the author, and perhaps a photo of him. (2007-4)

9.4 Question: I have a slogan I would like to protect. How do I go about doing that?

Answer: Generally, slogans are not protected by copyright. The U.S. Copyright Office states that “titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents” are not protected by copyright. If a slogan is associated with a product or service, it may be eligible for trademark protection. (2008-3)

9.5 Question: My company writes textbooks. We obtain permissions to use existing copyright-protected materials owned by others in our textbooks. Now we would like to license our content/textbooks to another party. Do we have the right to do that?

Answer: When you license content owned by others, you can ask for the permission to relicense that content to third parties. Or if you prefer not to do so (as it may cost you additional money), you may want to inform third parties that they may need to get permissions/licenses prior to reproducing your content/textbooks. (2008-3)

9.6 Question: My organization has purchased a journal article from a document supplier. May I send this article to a third party for translation into another language or does this infringe the “further reproduction, electronic storage or electronic transmission” which was expressly prohibited in the invoice from the document supplier?

Answer: Unless you own the copyright in a work, whenever you translate a work or have someone translate it on your behalf, you need permission from the copyright owner of that work. Translation is a right of every copyright holder. It is an adaptation of a work that requires advance permission. (2010-1)

9.7 Question: Do you need permission to include a painting or sculpture which appears in the background of a photograph of a person?

Answer: Some countries have exceptions from copyright law for the incidental inclusion of copyright-protected works in other copyright protected material. Generally, for the exception to apply, the use must be incidental and not deliberate. For example, the exception may allow a journalist to photograph a person with a painting in the background. (2009-2)

9.8 Question: If I find an image on “Google Images” can I use it in a book published by a non-profit organization?

Answer: Google images answers this with the following: “The images identified by the Google Image Search service may be protected by copyrights. Although you can locate and access the images through our service, we cannot grant you any rights to use them for any purpose other than viewing them on the web. Accordingly, if you would like to use any images you have found through our service, we advise you to contact the site owner to obtain the requisite permissions.” (2009-4)

9.9 Question:  If I provide online rights to use my photo, am I automatically being covered by a Creative Commons License?  Does it make a difference if the use is non-profit or editorial?

Answer:  You may provide any sorts of rights you wish.  Unless you state so, a Creative Commons license will never automatically apply to your images, even if the use is non-profit or editorial. (2010-4)

9.10  Question:  Is it legal to use someone else’s recipe and publish it in a book or blog if you credit the author of the recipe?

Answer:  A recipe may be protected by copyright if it is more than a mere listing of ingredients, for example, there are instructions on how to prepare and cook the ingredients. The ideas in the recipe are not protected, just the words used to express the ideas. So you may not copy the recipe per se (even if you credit the author), but you could create a similar recipe using your own words. (2010-3)

9.11 Question:  The non-profit I work for is putting together a workbook and accompanying video.  If we include short quotations or summaries (both cited) to help illustrate a point, can we sell the material?

Answer:  Short portions of a work such as quotations or summaries may be used in some circumstances without obtaining permission. However, this depends on each particular case and you must examine various factors such as what portion, percent wise, and “value” wise you copied, competition with original and more. In some countries, this may be covered by the defense of fair use or fair dealing. Whether you sell the material or not is not by itself determinative of whether you require permission. (2011-1)

9.12 Question:  How do I obtain permission to use a work created by a foreign author?

Answer:  The permissions procedure for any work of any origin is the same. Determine if it is a work protected by copyright, if the duration of protection is still ongoing, and whether your use is a copyright use for which permission is required (that is, not subject to fair use (U.S.A.) or any other provision or exception in the country where the work is being reproduced.) If you need to obtain permission, you must contact the copyright holder or his representative, including a copyright collective, to obtain that permission. (2011-2)

9.13 Question: Do I always have to pay for copyright permissions?

Answer:  It is up to the copyright owner to make this determination. If the copyright owner asks for a fee, you may be able to negotiate a lower fee, or negotiate for specific terms and conditions related to the fee. (2011-2)

9.14 QuestionI am creating tutorials for my blog based on a book I purchased.  Do I need permission from the author of the book?

Answer:  No, permission is required to reproduce a part or the entire book, however you may use the ideas in the book, explain them to others and base tutorials on the contents of the book without permission. (2011-3)

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Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 at 16:14
  • Lesley
    May 18th, 2011 at 14:16 | #1

    Hi James, you should obtain permission prior to reading the book, recording your reading, and posting it on YouTube.

  • Karen
    Jul 12th, 2011 at 22:24 | #2

    A writers group asked it’s members for short stories to be included in a book. 3 books were published with stories from the writers in it. The books were published by the “leader” of the group on Nov 5, 2009, June 1, 2010, and October 18, 2010. The writers did not sign over their copyrights to the leader/publisher.

    Since the last book was published, the “leader” essentially kicked most of the members out of the group. However, the books are still for sale. Now, the publisher claims that they are an unofficial non-profit, but they are using the profits of these writers to publish more books.

    None of the writers have received any of the proceeds from the sale of these books. Some of these writers wish to remove their stories from these books.

    What is the process that must be followed to get these stories removed.

  • Lesley
    Jul 19th, 2011 at 13:35 | #3

    Hi Karen, the writers should contact a lawyer to proceed. There are legal advice clinics for artists in many states that may be able to assist with free or lower-fee legal services.

  • Aug 31st, 2011 at 12:31 | #4

    I would like to use a brief moving image from the film Dr. Strangelove
    in a music vide which will be freely available on the web. The footage
    from the film is highly edited so that the scene is quite distorted,
    but the point is that knowing the image–now iconic in the US–is
    essential to getting the point of the video.

    Can you tell me how I can obtain rights to use this part of the film?

    David Hahn

  • Lesley
    Aug 31st, 2011 at 16:30 | #5

    Hi David, sounds you need to contact the producer of the film to obtain rights to use the required footage.

  • Sep 1st, 2011 at 18:19 | #6

    Hi Lesley,

    I’ve had success in encouraging my patrons to seek out permissions. Now that they have done that, is there a “common” or “correct” verbiage to use indicate that we have cleared the copyright? For example we are using a chart in a questionnaire. Aside from noting the article in which the chart appeared, what else should put on it? Or do we do nothing, and go with the assumption that “copyright permission has been obtained unless proven otherwise” and keep our documentation on hand.


    Patrick Hendershot

  • Lesley
    Sep 2nd, 2011 at 08:19 | #7

    Hi Patrick, including a line about permission is a good practise and part of a permissions procedure, and the permission line is a helpful reminder to others that permission has been obtained. Unless the owner requests a specific permission line (and some owners do), develop a standard permission line to use on all content. One is “Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.”

  • Betty
    Sep 17th, 2011 at 19:43 | #8

    Hi Lesley,
    I would like to adapt books into an interactive format for disabled individuals. Actual purchased books would be used with pictures from other sources (or additional copies of the book cut apart) to enable to child/young adult to manipulate (interactive with the story) and/or with a strip added to the bottom of the book with reduced print (one or two words). Hope this is question, do I need permission since I am purchasing the book and just adding to it?

  • Lesley
    Sep 18th, 2011 at 13:54 | #9

    Hi Wright_be, some countries’ copyright laws have exceptions for disabled individuals but they are very specific provisions for very specific purposes, so you will have to check the copyright law of your own country to see what provisions may assist you. Generally, you need permission to reproduce books and adapt them into interactive books.

  • Crystal
    Oct 3rd, 2011 at 20:07 | #10

    Hello Lesley,
    I am an artist and I took my jpegs and designed a screensaver in Microsoft windows “display”. I want to sell this on my website. Do I own it, though? And can I sell digital downloads?
    Appreciate your clarification on this.

  • Chrissie
    Oct 10th, 2011 at 20:03 | #11

    I’m interested in buying paperback books and re-covering them in a clothbound hard cover for resale. Would this infringe on copyright law? If it does, can I skirt the issue by only re-covering books written before 1923?

    Thanks for your helpful knowledge!

  • Lesley
    Oct 11th, 2011 at 17:33 | #12

    Hi Chrissie, you need permission when you reproduce the work. Doesn’t sound like you are reproducing the books, just recovering them. You are likely okay then!

  • Lesley
    Oct 11th, 2011 at 17:34 | #13

    Hi Crystal, I’m not familiar with MS “display” however generally if you create a work/screensaver, then you own the rights to the screensaver. You do not own the rights in any software that you use to create the screensaver.

  • Mary
    Oct 19th, 2011 at 19:18 | #14

    I am working on turning a blog into a book. I would like to use comments that some of the entries created because there is some great dialog. Do I need to get permission from all the people who commented? Can I create a blog post saying that I might want to publish the comments and if anyone is against having their comments published that they need to let me know?

  • Sandy
    Oct 20th, 2011 at 07:53 | #15

    What are your thoughts on using 5 words from a song in a textbook? The same 5 words are repeated several times throughout the song, which consists of about 1,000 words. What do you think?

  • Lesley
    Oct 20th, 2011 at 13:59 | #16

    Hi Sandy, at least quantity-wise, 5 words in a 1,000 word song is quite small. However, if the 5 words are repeated throughout the song and are an integral part of the song, I would likely get permission to use those words. Other things to consider; does the purpose of your use fit within one of the 4 fair use factors, and will your use compete with the original song? This is a matter of judgement you will have to make taking into account all of the circumstances.

  • Maya
    Oct 24th, 2011 at 00:08 | #17

    I am a consultant designing a training course for a company (for their internal use only) and would like to reference a model from a book. The model is copy-written and “All Rights Reserved.” Please advise.

  • Nikki
    Oct 26th, 2011 at 13:25 | #18

    I want to do create a tutorial as described in the quote above, can it be sold without getting permission? And can I reference the name of the book and author in my sales material and the title of my tutorial without getting permission?

  • Nikki
    Oct 26th, 2011 at 13:27 | #19

    Opps – quote didn’t print – I’m referring to Question 9.14 in your post above. Sorry about that.

  • Lesley
    Oct 26th, 2011 at 13:41 | #20

    Hi Nikki, when it comes to getting permission, in general it does not matter if you are producing for your own work or for resale of a work. It may affect an analysis of fair dealing or fair use to any situation however it is not a reason in general to get or forego obtaining permission.

  • Nikki
    Oct 26th, 2011 at 15:53 | #21

    Thanks Lesley. Is it infringement to use her name or book’s name in the title of my tutorial? Her book name includes her real name. And thanks again, this is very helpful.

  • sharon
    Nov 4th, 2011 at 12:10 | #22

    Hi Lesley,

    I would like to use a quote in an area of product sales. Do I need to get permission from the person who first said the quote, and if so, how do I find the person?

  • aaa
    Nov 8th, 2011 at 12:02 | #23

    Question: I work for a large University in New Mexico, USA. The recycling manager has instructed me to type of copies of articles that she tears out from various newspapers & magazines. She wants them typed word for word then emailed out to several hundred people on her email lists. The articles are on various subjects she herself finds interesting. Is this legal? She does not get permission from anyone. Thanks so much if you can offer any advice!

  • amanda
    Nov 11th, 2011 at 10:01 | #24

    I recently started a blog-if I want to use an image from Huffington Post, for example, is it ok to use the image if I write Image Source: Huffington Post and have a link to the page where I got it?

  • Mackie
    Nov 13th, 2011 at 15:04 | #25

    Hi, Lesley. I’m a college professor and interested in publishing a textbook. Do you know what copyright issues are present when you use monologues from plays as worksheets in a textbook?

  • Lesley
    Nov 14th, 2011 at 10:41 | #26

    Hi Mary, those who post comments in blogs generally own the copyright in those comments. If you are writing a print book, you need to get permission from those who commented.

  • Lesley
    Nov 14th, 2011 at 10:50 | #27

    Hi Maya, a model or graph or image is protected by copyright. So you will need permission to use that model in your course.

  • Lesley
    Nov 14th, 2011 at 10:53 | #28

    Hi Nikki, you may reference a book and its title in a work you are creating such as a course. As long as there is no reproduction of the book itself, you do not need to obtain permission.

  • Lesley
    Nov 14th, 2011 at 11:09 | #29

    Hi Sharon, generally you can use a quote without obtaining permission. Not sure from where you are getting the quote. Is it merely a quote? From an interview? From a written article? If the quote is from an article, is the quote short? Fair use may have to be examined if it is more than a mere quotation.

  • Lesley
    Nov 14th, 2011 at 11:11 | #30

    Hi AAA, get permission! You are reproducing the articles.

  • Lesley
    Nov 14th, 2011 at 11:14 | #31

    Hi Amanda, you need permission to use an image from the Huffington Post — unless there is clear indication on that image that you may use it without obtaining permission.

  • Lesley
    Nov 14th, 2011 at 11:16 | #32

    Hi Mackie, for any copyright-protected content that you plan to reproduce for use in your textbook, get permission!

  • Michael
    Jan 4th, 2012 at 11:56 | #33

    Hi Lesley — We have an internal corporate website that is unavailable to anyone outside our four walls. Is it permissible to use images or advertisements found on the web that belong to other companies in a parody fashion? That is, we might pull down an image that includes a person doing some sort of job, but we will photoshop the head of one of our folks onto it (thus the parody) and put it on our site to advise our community of upcoming events or whatever. Fair use or not?

  • Sarah
    Jan 4th, 2012 at 14:27 | #34


    I want to use a poem in my musical composition. The original poem is in Spanish but I want to use the translated version.

    Thank you for any guidance you can offer.

  • Lesley
    Jan 29th, 2012 at 13:45 | #35

    Hi Michael, generally there is no difference using content for internal or public purposes, except perhaps it may be more difficult for the copyright owner to find the infringement. Parody is approached differently in each country and you’d have to look at the parody provisions, if one exists, or fair use or fair dealing, in the country where the content is being used. Generally, you want to obtain permission to reproduce a work and also to adapt or manipulate it unless there is a provision to allow these things.

  • Lesley
    Jan 29th, 2012 at 13:47 | #36

    Hi Sarah, if the poem is still protected by copyright, you will need permission to translate it into English, and also to use it in a musical composition.

  • Lesley
    Jan 29th, 2012 at 17:54 | #37

    Hi Sharon, generally a small quote can be used without permission. However, to be safest, apply the 4 fair use factors to ensure your use would be considered fair by a judge.

  • Sung
    Feb 20th, 2012 at 17:14 | #38


    Hi, I had a similar question. My organization is publishing a resource packet for our members, and we have obtained appropriate permission from the respected sources to use their material. We want to document somewhere that we have received permission to reprint certain items. Do we do this at the bottom of each of the reprinted items or can we dedicate a page at the beginning or the packet and write something like what you suggested, “Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.”

    Thank you.

  • Caitlyn
    Feb 20th, 2012 at 21:28 | #39

    Hi i want to write a book based on another book, and im wondering if in doing so i would be infringing on copyright laws

  • Lesley
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 09:11 | #40

    Hi Sung and Caitlyn, in order to include items from existing works, or to adapt a book, you need permission from the owner of the underlying/original work. If you are merely using ideas from that earlier work, then permission is not necessary. It is not mandatory to include any specific wording re copyright about the parts or original work unless the owner of the original works requests that you do so.

  • Allison Elvir
    Mar 9th, 2012 at 12:24 | #41

    How can I determine if an academic work meets copyright guidelines?

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