Skip to main content

How to Get Permission to Quote Someone in Your Book


Note: the following information was collected by posting many questions on forums for small publishers; in many cases it represents opinions and should not be taken as competent legal advice.

As a compiler of a book of quotations, I sometimes get questions like, "How do I get permission to quote someone in a book?" or "What do the copyright laws say about quoting someone?"

Here are a few things I learned while researching the subject for myself.

To start, if you want to quote someone, you need to get permission from the author or publisher. Consider it to be a necessary step in writing your book.

How do you go about doing it? I sometimes had success with sending the author/publisher a faxed agreement and having them fax back a signed copy. Other times they preferred to just send a quick email saying it's ok, as long as I agreed to provide a "by-line" in the back of the book.

Let me say this: it is hard getting "permissions". If you only have 1 or 2 to go after, it isn't too tough. But in my case, with a book of quotes, wow...it was difficult.

Writer Help Wanted - Write For A Living
Find Writing Jobs Or Start Your Own Writing Business. Let Our Pro Writers Help You Make A Full Time Income At Home. Founded By Ny Times Best Selling Author Ron Douglas And Elite Content Marketer Alice Seba. 

Copyright law in this area is called "Fair Use". Fair Use says that you can copy someone without permission if it's for educational purposes or if they've been dead for over 50 years.  Keep in mind that these two points aren't exactly 100% fool-proof. You can still get in trouble.

In my case, at a late stage in the publishing process, I decided to re-compile my whole book using quotes from people all dead over 50 years. This was a bummer, since I had my heart set on a few really good quotations. Why did I re-compile the whole book?  Because it just became way too hard to track down so many "live" authors.

Some people gave me permission to quote them, but other people flat-out said "NO!"

Before you can ask for permission to quote someone, first you need to find out who they are! How do you find out when they lived?  When did they pass away?  Google is great for this...especially if you type their names in quotes: ex. "John Doe".

If you have a lot of people to track down, there are services that can do it...but I never found anyone who offered such a service. I called a few BIG publishers who said they have small departments that do this job. It's tricky, so they themselves like to stick to long-dead people to quote.

Apparently, a lot of people do quote other people without permission. Will the copyright owners find out? Will they care? Will they be honored to be included in your work? Will they look at it as promotion or damage?

What if you can't locate the owner and you really "need" to use that quote? When/if the copyright owners find out, will they take legal action against you for a small quote? And, what if you provide a generous "by-line" in the "Resources" section at the back of your book? Under Fair Use laws, they have to prove that your quote caused them financial damage. If it appears to have actually helped them, by referring people to their book/company/service/website, is that damaging? You decide.

Also, it appears that the courts will take into consideration how big your quote is in relation to the work as a whole. If it's a small quote in a big book, some people say you're "safer".

If you can't get permission, maybe you can find another similar quote, or perhaps you could reproduce/re-write the idea into your own words...without blatantly plagiarizing.  Your last line of defense would be writers/publishers insurance...which can or can't be expensive. Shop around.

As one last thing to think about: please don't take my words as "Gospel" or competent legal advice. Check out publaw.com and ivanhoffman.com for some very good information on copyright law.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Top 10 [FREE] Writing Courses on Youtube That Are Packed With Massive Value

This is a friendly reminder that the best things in life really are FREE, and that includes full spectrum writing courses on Youtube that teach you just about everything you will need to know about operating as a competent, reliable, and skilled copywriter. Sure, you could pay for courses and there's nothing wrong with that. But why not take advantage of a free opportunity? Here are  Top 20 [FREE] Writing Courses on Youtube That Are Packed With Massive Value. 1. Simple Learning's Copywriting Course In this course, writers will learn how to write write product descriptions, multiply sales, and how to influence your readers. Course contains very little fluff - only the most important principles are shared throughout the video.  2. Simplilearn's Full Course Content Marketing Tutorial For Beginners Every content writer and marketer wants that coveted #1 spot on Google. Heck, most want to get to the front page at the very least. This course is all about ranking high on Google an

[SPONSOR] Mine Crypto With Your Phone For Free Now

Download the app and start mining with Android today Use PROMO Code: BBC896 to earn a 1.00℅ bonus on everything you mine The Road To Mass Adoption It’s common for cryptocurrencies to talk about seeking mass adoption. It’s far less common for them to make tangible progress towards that goal. Instant Cryptocurrency Payments We have a global patent pending on a technology that allows instant cryptocurrency payments. Instant payments will initially be in ETN but our patent also covers Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The ability to SPEND ETN instantly is only half the equation. We are developing an API that will allow easy integration to ACCEPT ETN instantly. This means it will be simple to allow an ecommerce system to give instant check out, and even allow easy integration into ePOS systems (electronic point of sales systems or tills). USD 3 trillion opportunity By giving access to the 'gig economy' for the first time to over 350 million unb

[VIDEO] Dan Peña - How To Create Deal-flow | QLA Audio Newsletter

Dan Peña - How To Create Deal-flow | QLA Audio Newsletter Dan explains how to get started in Merger & Acquisition transactions. Known as the $50 Billion man, Dan has been the Chairman of over 50 firms and regularly holds Quantum Leap Advantage seminars out of his 15th Century castle in Scotland. He has created billions in equity value on behalf of his colleagues. One of his most recent mentees completed a $500 billion deal to create NEOM, the city of the future. Recording circa the mid 90s. Dan's website: https://www.danpena.co.uk/qla-for-dummies/ Here's the secret to becoming a great copywriter: http://bit.ly/2Ko76yU You are about to get full-blown access to money-making software that's jammed thousands of dollars into my forex account in the last few months: http://bit.ly/2kopNGi Never Seen Before! This Smart And Easy To Use Software Is Helping Forex Traders To Increase Their Profitability With Any System: http://bit.ly/2kVCnx6 Bots Room Has Be