Before You Sign | Obtaining Permissions

18 April 2018 Before

Many contracts make the author responsible for obtaining permission for the use of any material from other sources, and for paying permission fees.

Permission fees can be extremely costly, but publishers can often be persuaded either to pay the entire cost or to share it with the author; or you may be able to arrange for the publisher to pay your share in the first instance and deduct a corresponding sum from the royalties.

If you are preparing a work in which quotations are an integral part (e.g. a study guide or anthology), or supplying copy for a commissioned non-fiction work, or if you are being paid on a fee-only basis, the publisher should pay all permission fees. And if you are expected to do extensive picture research for a publisher-originated book, remember that a freelance picture researcher would charge an hourly or daily fee for doing so.

Permission fees will be higher the more rights you seek - so ensure that the rights you are granting your publisher (i.e. for which you need to clear permissions) are as limited as possible. For details about when you need to secure permission, and how to do so, see our Guide to Copyright and Permissions.

Give yourself as much time as possible when clearing permissions because rights holders (especially publishers’ permissions departments) can take a very long time to respond to requests. Beware contracts which ask you to have cleared all permissions by the delivery date and, if necessary, discuss with the publisher what happens if that is not possible for reasons outside your control.

In their capacity as owners, some picture libraries and galleries charge for the loan of artwork plus a fee for reproduction - quite separately from and in addition to whether you also need to obtain consent from and pay the copyright holder.

As well as a fee, rights holders may request a voucher copy of the book – confirm whether such copies will be at your expense or your publisher’s.

Our advisors are always happy to answer any queries you might have on this subject.