When Do I Need to Get Permissions?



Here are the essential self-publishing guidelines for getting permissions that every author needs to know:

Quotes from published books
Generally you need to get permission if you quote, in total, more than 100 words from a published book.  Less than 100 words is usually considered fair use for which you don’t have to have permission.

Quotes from periodicals
Generally, you need to get permission if you quote, in total, 50 words or more from a magazine or journal.  Less than 50 words is usually considered fair use for which you don’t have to have permission.

Quotes from poems or song lyrics
You must have permission to quote from a poem or song if you use two lines or more.

Quotes from a book, magazine or song published previous to 1923
Anything published previous to 1923 in the United States is considered in the Public Domain and you can use the material in your book without permission.

Quoting the Bible 
The King James Version of the Bible is in the Public Domain since it was published previous to 1923.  Most every modern Bible translation has a permissions web site that outlines how you can quote their Bible translation.  Typically, they allow you to quote from their Bible translation proving you provide proper copyright attribution; the quotes do not comprise an entire book of the Bible, and the quotes are less than 25 percent of the entire work.

Using Pictures and Graphics
You need to have permission of the photographer or artist to publish their photo or artwork in your book.  Just because a picture is on the web, does NOT mean that it is in the Public Domain.

Your best bet in using pictures for your book is to purchase images from a stock photo company (such as www.istock.com) where they have the rights to the images and will sell those rights to you for a nominal fee.

The other site that is good for finding images you can use in your book (especially if you need photos of a public figure) is Wikipedia. Wikipedia always indicates if an image they use on their site is in the Public Domain and, if not, they will tell what you need to do to get permission to use the image.

Using Pictures You Have Taken
Usually, you need to have permission to use a photo from anyone in the picture that is recognizable.

When in doubt, get permission or check with your attorney

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