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Author Guidelines

JUST AS YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for the original content in your work, you are also responsible for obtaining permission for any quoted or borrowed material that you utilize to illustrate or amplify your own arguments.

What Copyright Signifies

Copyright is a legal right granted to the creator of an original work that has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as a book, an illustration, or a musical score. Copyright holders usually license to their publishers all "publishing rights" to their work, the most important of which are the exclusive right to publish and distribute the work and the exclusive right to give others permission to quote from or adapt the work. Your rights as an author, which you have transferred to Houghton Mifflin as your publisher, include the exclusive right to publish and distribute your work and the exclusive right to give others permission to quote from or adapt your work. And if you want to quote or reproduce what someone else has written, said, sung, or otherwise originated, you must apply to the holder of the copyright for written permission to do so. For practical purposes, this means applying initially to the publisher of the work, even if the copyright notice is not in the publisher's name. A publisher who does not control reprint rights will tell you who does--the author, the author's estate, a literary agent, or some other authorized person.

Copyright on written work

The copyright grants to its holder exclusive use of the expression of ideas in written works. Explicit permission must be obtained to reprint another's work in your text. Ideas, facts, or concepts themselves are not protected by copyright. If you discuss original ideas or unique research in your own words, professional courtesy certainly dictates that you acknowledge and accurately cite your sources, at least in footnotes. Even though you may not need explicit permission in a given case, we recommend that you identify the original source in order to avoid any appearance of plagiarism.

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Copyright on illustrative work

For line drawings and cartoons, written permission is required. Other illustrative material--photographs, paintings, films, soundtracks, slides, musical scores--belong in both form and substance to the copyright holder and may not be reproduced in any form without permission. (See "Collections of facts: charts, tables, and other line art" later in this section.)

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Who holds copyright

Determining who holds copyright is sometimes difficult, but in almost every case the name of the copyright holder appears on or near the work in question.

  1. In original books, the notice of copyright usually appears on the copyright page--that is, the page that backs up the title page. Original artwork and tables appearing within a work are usually also the property of the author or publisher. Most periodicals carry copyright notices on or adjacent to the masthead.
  2. Copyrighted material that has been used by another author will carry a separate credit line, indicating that the material was used by permission. This line usually appears in a footnote, near the material in question, on the copyright page, or in a special acknowledgments section. You must apply to the copyright holder of the primary source (the original publisher of the material), not to the publisher of the secondary source (the book in which you have found the material). If material in the latter contains adaptations that you want to use, then you must apply to both parties for permission. Most prose and poetry that are reprinted by permission of a third party stand out as such. Figuring out who owns the rights to charts, graphs, and tables is rarely so easy. Most psychology textbooks, for example, list permissions credit lines at the back of the book, not on each piece of line art. For that reason, be sure to look for an acknowledgments section to verify the ownership of any line art or short passages that have a source cited but do not carry a credit line at the point of use.
  3. The Houghton Mifflin permissions department has many resources available to track down obscure sources or literary agents of authors. The Library of Congress also tracks copyright ownership and can do searches for you.
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Duration of copyright

At present, it is safest to assume that anything published in the United States within the past seventy-five years is still protected by copyright, unless you have authoritative, written confirmation to the contrary. The United States copyright law provides copyright protection for the life of the author plus fifty years for works published after January 1, 1978. Works published before that date may be protected for a period of seventy-five years after first publication.

Copyright laws vary from country to country, so a work that is no longer protected by copyright in the United States may be protected in England, Canada, and elsewhere. When you quote from material that appears to be in the public domain in the United States but under copyright in another country, you must obtain permission from the person or entity controlling that foreign copyright.

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In your writing, generally use trademarks as adjectives, not as nouns or verbs--for example, referring to "the Xerox copier available for photocopying." Other trademarks are enforced to prevent a word from sliding into generic use and losing its protected status (such as aspirin and zipper). Microsoft Corporation prefers "applications for the Windows operating system" to "Windows applications."


You risk libel when you write something about a person or organization that is negative, defamatory, or untrue. Authors need to cite reliable sources of facts, such as court records or major periodicals, to show that they reasonably believed a statement to be true. Pay special attention to allegations of criminal behavior, and use proper legal terminology, keeping in mind, for example, the difference between winning a court case and reaching a settlement. If you have any doubt about whether your manuscript contains potentially libelous material, ask your sponsoring editor to consult the Houghton Mifflin legal department.

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Material Requiring Permission


Most of the material for which you will need to secure permission falls under the broad heading of text: documents, essays, articles, reviews, short stories, plays, and so on. For original material, the publisher of the book or journal should be able to grant permission, although you may be directed to the author or an agent.

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Expressive works

You will need permission for short excerpts from highly expressive works such as poems, songs, plays, and films, and for certain other types of materials. Examples include one or more lines of poetry; any identifiable phrase from a song; quotations from plays, movies, or television, if more than one or two lines; dictionary definitions (we recommend that you take and request permission to use definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary, published by Houghton Mifflin); problems, exercises, or test items; and essential matter--for example, an abstract of a research project may be only a fraction of the whole but contain its essence.

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Unpublished material

The copyright law protects unpublished material even more strongly than it protects published material. For this reason, permission is required for student writings, dissertations, personal letters or diaries, and any other unpublished work. In addition, release forms are needed for student writings and personal stories or case histories.

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Collections of facts: charts, tables, and other line art

Although copyright does not protect facts as such, it can protect certain expressions, selections, and arrangements of facts. Line art from most journals (psychology, business, marketing) requires permission as does a chart or graph from another book (be sure to check the acknowledgments section of a textbook to verify the ownership of line art contained within).

If you have made your own selection of facts, compiled your chart from two or more sources, or extracted a few facts from a more extensive report, you will not need to get permission from the sources unless you are reproducing substantial amounts of material. If you reformat the presentation of strictly factual material, you seldom will need to get permission. You should, however, provide your development editor with a copy of the original source for comparison.

Be sure to consult your development editor whenever most of your material comes from one original table or chart or you make repeated use of the same source. Also, always get permission to reproduce or adapt factual tables from unpublished sources. You will need permission if the source comes with a notice restricting circulation (e.g., certain subscription newsletters). But you do not need permission to quote from materials in the public domain, such as United States government publications.

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In general, a photo permissions editor will request permission for all of the photographic art that, with your agreement, we supply. A photo permissions editor usually will obtain camera-ready copy of, and permission to use, realia and cartoons.

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The restrictions that apply to original works also apply to translations. If you want to quote a foreign work in your own translation, you must get specific permission from the foreign publisher, because translation rights are protected. Also keep in mind that a scholar who prepares a new edition of Shakespeare or translates Sophocles into English has a copyright in his or her particular edition or translation even if the original text is in the public domain. It is necessary to check the copyright notice of the particular edition you are quoting. We recommend use of Houghton Mifflin editions, such as The Riverside Shakespeare, whenever available to expedite requests for permission.

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Internet/World Wide Web/Screen shots

Written permission is required to reprint any text and images taken from the Internet--World Wide Web pages, text from Usenet and other news groups, bulletin board postings, and any personal e-mail addresses. Many Web pages and moderated news digests have a "Terms and Conditions" notice that sets forth applicable uses of material and an address to write to. But even in the absence of such a notice, text and images are still protected by copyright. If a site does not have a copyright address to write to, sending e-mail to the Webmaster can usually open the right doors.

Just as text taken from a book needs a complete and accurate source citation, so does material taken from the Internet. The citation should include the URL or URN ( and dates of downloads; a clear printout of the material is also needed. Because the Internet is a fluid medium, sites can change on a daily basis. We do not want to print outdated material while giving the impression that it is still current.

Screen shots of your computer running copyrighted software also require permission. You may want to show a printout of a document written in Microsoft Word, for example. If so, written permission would be needed from Microsoft Corporation, which holds the copyright to this image. Likewise, in an accounting textbook, permission is required for screen shots of accounting software.

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"Fair Use"

"Fair use" is a legal concept, undefined and various, that provides for the reproduction of copyrighted materials without formal permission. The Copyright Act identifies four factors that an author must consider when deciding whether use of material without permission is "fair":

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market for, or the value of, the copyrighted work
Although every case should be evaluated individually, we offer these guidelines as a practical aid. Remember, though, that every publisher has its own set of guidelines. In the end, copyright holders (and, if a serious dispute arises, the courts) decide what is fair use and what is not.

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As a matter of practicality, you may quote up to 300 words of prose from a copyrighted text or book (or 150 words from a journal article) without express permission, if you meet the following conditions:

  1. The 300/150 words do not constitute a complete unit, such as an article, chapter, table, epigram, or dictionary definition.
  2. The 300/150 words do not constitute a substantial, essential, integral, crucial, or key portion of the source.
  3. The 300/150 words are used to illustrate or support your own text; they may not be used as an item in an anthology.
  4. The 300/150 words do not summarize unique research or an original concept of some other scholar.
  5. You give full credit to author, source, and publisher.
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Cumulative word counts

If several short, nonconsecutive quotations from one source add up to more than 300 words all together, you must apply for and receive written permission.

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Expressive works

These fair-use guidelines do not apply to all types of work. Permission is required for excerpts from highly expressive works, as previously mentioned.

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Quotations within quotations

If you plan to use a selection that contains a quotation of more than 300 words from yet another source or that quotes at any length from a piece of creative writing, you must obtain permission from the original copyright holder to use the embedded quotation. The permission for the principal quotation will probably make this clear, but if it does not, be forewarned that both permissions will no doubt be required.

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Public domain

Publications that were never copyrighted or on which the copyright has expired are in the public domain and may be quoted without permission. Most official publications of the United States government and of state and local governments, and the data therein, are also in the public domain. When you quote from a publication that is not protected by United States copyright law but is protected elsewhere, you must obtain permission from the foreign copyright holder.

Often you will not know whether an old copyright has been renewed or whether the material has gone into the public domain. When in doubt, write to the copyright owner, who will advise you that the material is now in the public domain or tell you to whom you must apply for further clearance. Again, the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress can assist in copyright registration and assignation searches.

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Clearing Permissions


Authors may choose to clear their own permissions or ask the sponsor to arrange for a professional permissions editor to clear permissions. If a freelancer is hired, the expense is taken from author royalties. In either situation, you are responsible for helping your development editor identify all material that has been taken from another source, either verbatim or as an adaptation.

Complete and accurate source citations are necessary to secure permissions in a timely manner, so the following information should be considered mandatory: author or editor; title of book or journal; title of article; page numbers; publication year; name of publisher. If material is taken from a secondary source, such as an anthology, you must provide the primary source information. And if text or screen shots come from the Internet, you must give the complete URL or URN and date of download, along with a clear printout.

When authors choose not to clear their own permissions, the work will be done by a freelancer hired by the permissions department. The freelance permissions editor will work closely with your development and project editors and will communicate questions and concerns to you as the need arises. The permissions editor can easily provide you or your development or sponsoring editor with a copy of the master list showing what requests are outstanding, what fees have been charged and prepaid, and what specific credit lines have been requested by rightsholders.

If you choose to clear permissions yourself, you will be responsible for requesting permission, recovering responses from rightsholders, signing other rightsholders' agreements as necessary, conveying credit lines dictated by rightsholders to the project editor, and completing a master list to be forwarded, with all of the back-up paperwork, to your development editor. The development editor will forward the file to the permissions department, which will take care of paying fees, sending copies of your book to rightsholders as requested, and storing the file.

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Template request forms are available from the permissions department. These provide rightsholders with certain information about your text that they need to know in order to grant the request, including the authors' full names, the complete title of the work, the approximate length and estimated list price, the intended size of the first print run, the anticipated date of publication, and the distribution rights sought. Your sponsor can provide you with this necessary information.

Templates are also available for requesting permission to use copyrighted material in more than one work, such as in a textbook and in an instructor's manual or transparency package. It is much more efficient to enter all the different uses of the material on the initial request form. A copy of the copyrighted material, as it is to be reproduced, must be attached to each permission request.

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As a general rule, it takes from four to six months to clear permissions for a college title, from the mailing of requests to the receipt of the last response. The task of clearing permissions should begin when a complete, final manuscript is available, so that rightsholders can be shown how their material is to be used and reprint rights to all materials owned by any one rightsholder can be requested at the same time. When the production schedule is going to be especially tight, you may save some time by beginning to gather permissions when you and your development editor are reasonably certain of the book's content, even if this means getting started with an incomplete manuscript. In any event, permissions gathering should be well under way before the manuscript is transmitted from the development editor to the project editor.

Problems that may arise include granters that are slow to respond or must forward the request to a third party; rightsholders that have moved, gone out of business, or cannot be located at all; exorbitant fees; and flat-out denials. By starting the permissions process early, you or the permissions editor can usually overcome these problems in time to meet the rest of the production schedule.

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If you wish to make editorial alterations to copyrighted material--deletions, abridgments, inserted heads, labels added to a diagram, or editorial interpolations--the copy of the material that you enclose with your request must show all of your changes. Retyping the material with ellipses may not be sufficient for many rightsholders. The holder of copyright must approve use of the material in the form you propose.

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The permissions file

When collecting the documents pertinent to each request, start with a copy of the copyrighted material in the form in which you intend to use it and your request, and add to these all subsequent correspondence. Read replies carefully to see whether you must take further action, such as obtaining an author's permission or writing to another publisher for foreign distribution rights. Be sure that the permission granted is indeed what you originally asked for, and act immediately on whatever directives you are given. Keep copies of all correspondence and all contracts for future reference.

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Credit lines

Note and comply with any stipulations about the form and placement of acknowledgments. Some publishers who require that you include the copyright notice in the credit line will give you the precise wording, which must be used even if it is inconsistent (as it probably will be) with your general style or with the wording specified by other granters. If the wording is not specified, devise a generic credit line that identifies the author or editor, title of book or article and journal, copyright year, and publisher and includes the phrase "used with permission."

A separate credits required list template is available to help you organize credit lines for placement in the text. In general, they should be sorted by manuscript chapter and page, or by author's last name, depending on the style of your text.

Keep in mind that most rightsholders receive sample copies of your book upon publication, so they will be able to see whether their specific requirements for the form and placement of credit lines have been followed. Any errors must be corrected as soon as possible, usually in the next printing of the work.

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Time restrictions

Often a granter stipulates that the permission will expire if the book does not reach publication within a specified period of time. Should the publication date slip beyond that time, an explanatory letter will often get you an extension, but the explanation has to be accepted in writing or your permission no longer holds. Also, many rightsholders require payment within a certain time period (60 days, 120 days, 12 months). Be sure to keep track of these deadlines so as to avoid a delinquent account.

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If the reply to your request is a contract, and if you have difficulty understanding or completing it, contact the permissions department for the necessary information to send back to the granter.

Frequently these forms come in duplicate to be signed by you and sometimes by your publisher before being returned to the granter for a countersignature. One signed copy then comes back to you, and this becomes your valid permission to reprint. In these cases, you do not have permission to reprint material until you have received the form signed by both you and the granter. If no further action is necessary, clip this document to your copy of the original request.

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Organizing the file

You can arrange your permissions file either alphabetically by granter (usually the publisher) or by the order in which the material appears in the text. Either way, when complete, the file must contain your initial request letter, all ensuing correspondence, and a final release granting permission for the use of every item you are quoting or otherwise using. Remember, no permission is final until every stipulation of the copyright holder is met.

When a single publisher controls copyright to more than one piece for which you need permission, wait until you can include a list of every item you wish to use before you write. A few publishers will refuse requests that trickle in over several weeks.

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Sending in the file

The complete permissions file, with all correspondence and final contracts, should be sent to your editor upon completion. He or she will make sure that all contracts have been signed and all conditions met before turning the file over to the permissions department, where all payments and book orders will be processed.

We will double-check your credit lines, of course, and question any inconsistencies or omissions. The permissions department is always available to help you with any issues or questions, at any time during the process.

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The fees required for permission to use copyrighted materials are usually paid upon publication of your work. Some rightsholders require earlier payment, however (e.g., within 30 days, 60 days, 90 days). If such requests are made of you, notify the permissions department, and payment will be made.

Permissions fees have risen over the past few years as publishers seek new ways to increase the profitability of intellectual property. If you feel you are being charged too much, we may be able to negotiate on your behalf. The permissions department can also offer suggestions for containing certain costs, based on the types of material you wish to use.

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Renegotiating Permissions

For a revision or new edition of your work, you will need to reapply for many (perhaps all) permissions--for copyrighted text, tables, and illustrations. Some copyright holders require renegotiation if a certain amount of your text is changed--one-quarter or one-third, for example. Most insist on a new permission, regardless of the amount of change. In some rare instances, permission will have been granted for use in "all future editions."

The permissions department will provide a master list from the previous edition, showing rightsholders, fees, and time limits for each item you used. This information can help you and your sponsoring editor determine what to keep and what to replace in a revision.

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