Publishing your material

One of the purposes of copyright law is to enable creators to build on the work of others. In academic publishing (conference papers, textbooks, journal articles and the like), quoting from the work of others is a common practice.

There can, however, be a fine line between fair dealing and infringement of another author's copyright (or, for that matter, moral right). If it is a small amount of the other author's work, with substantial comment by yourself, the dealing may be fair. If you are using large amounts of the other author's text, with only minimal comment by you, this may render the dealing unfair.

If, however, you are using the quoted material merely to convey the same information as the author, but for a rival purpose, then that may not be fair dealing, but infringement.

When you present a manuscript for publication, the publisher will require you to sign an undertaking that you have obtained all relevant permissions in relation to the use of copyrighted works in your own work. If you are uncertain as to whether your use of these works would meet the criteria for fair dealing, you should take steps to obtain a licence from the copyright owner to include those portions of their work in your own.

Copyright in published works is usually vested in the publisher, and an enquiry to the publisher is the best place to start. The publishing industry is volatile, with takeovers, mergers, and closures, so a web search for the publisher is probably a good place to start before writing for permissions to ensure that your request goes to the correct address.

Remember that such things as charts, diagrams, tables and maps are complete works, and you will need to request permission to reproduce them.

The Permissions and Rights Officer

Dear Sir

Permission to use quote from "XXXX"

I am writing to seek your permission to quote a passage from[title] by [author/s], published by [Publisher] in [year]. ISBN [number].

I wish to use the passage in my forthcoming book, "The Meaning of Travel", to be published by Anderson Press, Sydney. (Give details here as to type of publication, selling price, and distribution.) e.g. The book will have an initial print run of 5000 copies, and will retail through bookstores in all Australian states at $39.95.

Will you please advise me if I may use this passage, and what royalties and licence conditions apply to that use.

A photocopy of the relevant page is attached, with the required portion marked in blue.

Yours, etc

(Thanks to Mike Lean, QUT for these words.)