Seek permission before reproducing something

Tom ChalmersTom Chalmers is Managing Director at IPR License.

The writer Charles Caleb Colton once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but in reality that’s not always true, and I’m not just referring to the mocking of Craig David from the old Bo’ Selecta days. In publishing imitation can often be more aligned with litigation than flattery, especially when you throw that dreaded word plagiarism into the mix.

By the way I’ve just checked that it’s ok to use the Charles Caleb Colton quote in this article as it’s in the public domain, or at least I think so anyway. But herein lies the point. Using another person’s work, be this a small passage, paragraph or even an obscure quote, could – without the proper permissions gained – lead to copyright litigation.

The simple rule is that writers and publishing houses should always seek permission before reproducing something unless it is beyond doubt that it is already in the public domain. And there is also the matter of complying with the term ‘fair use’. Simple? Well, yes and no. Now I’m not going to go into the legalities as it would lead to a far longer piece than I’d intended to write but it’s clear that whilst permissions can appear somewhat of a minefield, the truth is that they don’t have to be.

An encouraging sign is that in a recent IPR License Author Index a healthy 80% of respondents recognised the term “fair use” when addressing copyright and permissions .However, when asked if they were able to clearly define the term a whopping 72% said they were unsure or unable to, whilst less than a third (28%) answered positively that they could.

These figures may not signify a raft of potential law suits or a Daily Mail campaign but it does underline the fact that there is room for some further education regarding permissions. In previous articles I’ve talked about a host of available online resources to help plug such knowledge gaps which leaves little wiggle room for authors not to be aware of the rules and the ramifications for ignoring them. A reassuring fact though is that authors appear at least willing to embrace technology.

A clear positive from the research was that almost three quarters (73%) suggested that they would use an automated online platform to search, list, buy and sell permissions. In an industry which is often cited as being somewhat old-fashioned it’s great to hear that authors are recognising the value technology can play in boosting permission transactions and helping authors to gain simple and straight-forward access to finding, buying and selling the relevant permissions.

Permission may not be headline-grabbing, inspirational or sexy but they do generate £billions of business every year for publishers, in particular for journals and a variety of business/educational publications whilst also helping to provide a regular and much needed income boost to a variety of author’s coffers.



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