Published Podcast Ep. 28 | Navigating Permissions for Outside Content with Carrie Jones

In this episode we'll speak with Greenleaf’s Director of Production, Carrie Jones, about the process of seeking permissions to use already-published content in your book.

1:45 - Why don't you tell us a little about what you do at Greenleaf and your background in permissions?

  • I head up production at Greenleaf, which is made up of three different groups: editorial, design, and project management.
  • Before Greenleaf I spent 21 years at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and about a decade in their permissions and copyright division, seeking permission for copyrighted material and making decisions about fair use and public domain.

2:40 - What are some examples of common things that need permissions?

  • Our best advice is that, if you didn't create it, you should seek permission.
  • If you had someone else create something for you, you should have a work-for-hire contract with them that gives you control of that content.
  • There are two exceptions for content that don't need permission, public domain and fair use. In the U.S. public domain is content that was written or created before 1923. Current U.S. copyright law gives the author the right to own the content for seventy years after death. Content is copyrighted for seventy years post-publication.
  • Any content that was created by a federal employee discharging their federal duties also falls into public domain.
  • There are four general guidelines for fair use: the amount of material the author is using, the amount of that content that takes up an author's book, how it's used (in the text or on the cover), and whether it's for commercial use or educational use.

6:40 - If someone is intending to include a bibliography, is that sufficient for permission?

  • The purpose of a bibliography is to provide source information for a reader. It has nothing to do with getting permission.
  • You still need to get permission for the content if it doesn't fall under public domain or fair use.

7:30 - What does the permissions process look like?

  • I always recommended using a permissions researcher. It's a complex field, and people go to school to learn how to do it.
  • If you do it yourself, the first step is to find the original copyright holder, the copyright source.
  • In some cases, as in traditional publishing, the author often won't own the rights and requests need to be sent to a publisher.
  • If you're seeking permission, you have to get the right terms in the contract. If the book is distributed in both the United States and Europe, you'll need to clear it with world wide rights. If you're seeking permissions for an ebook and printed book, you may have to seek out two different owners, the digital owner and the print owner.

9:54 - What are the risks if someone proceeds to publication with unpermissioned material?

  • The biggest risk is that you can and will be sued. You don't know what's going through the head of the copyright owner. You could be sued, taken to federal court, and/or have to destroy thousands of books.

11:53 - Do you have any parting advice for those who have outside content in their manuscripts?

  • Ask for a permissions-experienced person to help you. At GBG we have two employees with permissions experience who do what we call a permissions scrub on new manuscripts.
  • Don't fall for the ideas that, "I requested permission so I'm covered," or, "I told them six months ago I'd go ahead and publish if they didn't respond." That won't hold up in federal court.
  • If you revise content, that doesn't give you the right to it. You've created at derivative work and still need permission.
  • Many copyright owners charge fees, and there's no standard. They could charge nothing or thousands of dollars.

Want to take a deeper dive into the world of copyrights? Check out our podcast with Greenleaf General Counsel Sujan Trivedi.

About Carrie

Carrie brings more than thirty years of publishing experience to her position at Greenleaf Book Group, including two decades with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She has held a variety of positions, encompassing editorial, rights and permissions, and project management. At Greenleaf, Carrie manages the editorial, design, and project management teams, focusing on process improvement and quality management. Carrie also oversees Greenleaf’s permissions services. Carrie holds a BA in English from the University of Texas and has been a certified PMP since 2010.