KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review—Copyright and Permissions: What Every Writer and Editor Should Know

We editorial pros have all encountered manuscripts with quotations in them that led us to wonder about the limits of fair use. But where do we go for more information on this issue? Copyright and Permissions: What Every Writer and Editor Should Know, a new booklet just out from the Editorial Freelancers Association, is just what we've all been looking for.

Before I go further in this review, I must disclose this information: I have been friends with Elsa Peterson, the book's author, for years. And when she was employed by McGraw-Hill Higher Education as a developmental editor, I edited some manuscripts for her in my role as a freelancer.

But though Elsa is my friend, I can also tell you that she knows permissions quite well. She has more than 20 years' experience as a permissions editor, time spent hunting down the true owners of copyright and helping her clients negotiate the wording of credit lines and fees for the right to reproduce previously published illustrations and tables and such. She knows where to look, whom to ask, and—most important—how to ask for permission to reprint. So I have no trouble believing that Elsa knows what she's talking about when it comes to permissions.

This booklet is quite handy for freelancers who don't have a publishing house's legal department to back them up, and the writing is friendly, straightforward, and accessible. Will using the book replace getting advice from a lawyer? No, but it will point readers in the right direction. It covers

  • Whether it's necessary to obtain permission to use the material
  • Where and how to request permission
  • What to do if the copyright holder doesn't grant permission for reuse or requests a high fee for granting it
  • The basics of copyright, public domain, and fair use
  • Current issues concerning copyright
  • How permissions editing is done, step by step

I've been working in publishing for 29 years now, so the need to obtain permission for reusing material isn't new to me, but there are details I sometimes forget. Elsa's book makes it easy to find what I need to remember. I especially like these features of the book:

  • "Copyright Facts and Fallacies," where common misperceptions are debunked
  • Step-by-step lists of procedures that should be followed to get the best results
  • The table outlining duration of copyright protection (This is definitely one I'll bookmark.)
  • Discussion of where copyright issues are heading
  • The table of information fields for a permissions database
  • The sample permissions request letter

Copyright and Permissions (ISBN: 978-1-880407-23-3) is available as a download (US$8.25) and in traditional printed form (US$12.25; 48 pages). I don't think any editorial professional can afford to be without it.

1 comment:

K Venkatesh said...

This booklet is very useful for editorial pros. When there are no specific instructions on how to handle permissions, I think this booklet will serve as a guide. Although I haven't read this booklet, your review makes me want to get this booklet. Thank you for the review, Kathy.

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