Permissions Recommendations for Authors

Author Responsibilities and Copyright Guidelines

Unless otherwise stipulated in your author contract, you, as author (or editor of a multi-author volume), are legally responsible for complying with copyright law, and you must clear permissions to reprint or reproduce material protected by copyright. Unless the reproduced work falls under "fair use" provisions, or is in the public domain, you will need to acquire permission to reproduce that material. You will need to provide PUP with copies of all permissions grants to use copyrighted material.

For further information, you may consult the document created by the Copyright Committee for the AAUP (Association of American University Presses).

Please note that the recommendations of Princeton University Press and the AAUP are not a substitute for qualified legal advice.

Below are PUP's recommendations regarding various types of permissions.

Fair Use Provision and Text Permissions

One of the more important limitations to copyright is the doctrine of "fair use." The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

For reference, the AAUP recommends asserting fair use for short text quotations within the context of the scholarly argument. The Press, in protecting works to which it controls rights, allows up to 250 words to be used in a scholarly context without permission. The Press requires that permission be sought for any text quotations larger than 250 words, and for text quotations which are used outside of the scholarly argument (see epigraphs). Generally, quotations from brief works, such as poems, should be as brief as possible in view of the scholarly argument.


While they can be useful, PUP does not consider epigraphs essential to a scholarly argument. Therefore, PUP recommends the author seek permission for chapter epigraphs taken from song lyrics, poems, and from any published or unpublished material.

Music lyrics

Copyright to music lyrics are typically heavily copyrighted. PUP recommends seeking permission from the appropriate copyright holder to reproduce lyrics.

Publicity Stills and Film Frame Enlargements

PUP recommends asserting "fair use" when including film frame enlargements (film stills) and publicity stills if they are essential and discussed within the scholarly argument. If the images are decorative or non-essential, they are not considered fair use and you must seek permission from the copyright holder for permission to reproduce. Acknowledgement must be given, and it is important to be conservative when selecting the material, limiting the amount of frames of one person or from one film.


For photographs, art, and images/illustrations, PUP recommends seeking permission from the appropriate copyright holder/artist's estate. If a photograph shows one or more identifiable persons, you may need in limited circumstances to obtain a release from them, not because of copyright, but because of their rights of privacy and publicity, depending upon the nature of the photo and its intended use, and whether the individual is a public or private figure. Please note that there is a difference between acquiring a hi-res image from a repository, and acquiring permission. Often, libraries, museums, and fine art vendors can provide hi-res images, but they are not the copyright holder of the image. You must also seek permission from the copyright holder.


We recommend that PUP authors consider assertive fair use for graphs and charts used in the context of scholarly argument. If you reproduce a table or graph that is essential to the underpinning of your scholarly argument, and the material does not have any other complicating factors such as trademark or privacy rights, PUP recommends you consider a fair use of that image. On the other hand, if your work is not scholarly, or the argument and/or image is ancillary or decorative, then fair use would not be easily argued.

Cover art

Princeton University Press's authors are not responsible for securing or clearing cover art. This process is managed in-house at the Press.

Publications Written or Co-Written by You:

If your PUP publication included material (or is derived from material) previously published by you, you must request permission from the original publisher and follow their policies regarding republication. The previously published material must also be appropriately credited.


If your scholarly work includes interviews, you should acquire written interview releases that state that it covers publications. The wording of the release should conform to your field of study's and/or professional organizations ethical guidelines.

Good faith effort

If you are seeking permission from a copyright holder but have not had a response from them, you may proceed with the usage according to the following stipulations. PUP considers a documented "good faith" effort to include all of the following criteria:

  • Written record of at least three attempts to contact the copyright owner
  • Reasonable lapse of time (4 weeks) between attempts
  • Confirmation that, to the best of your knowledge, you are attempting to contact the correct party

Public Domain

A work of authorship is in the "public domain" if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.

Public domain texts include: any text first published in the United States prior to 1 January 1923 and anything first published in the United States prior to 1 January 1964 for which copyright was not renewed. All works of the U.S. government of whatever type or medium are also in the public domain. (State government documents or documents of foreign governments may be protected by copyright, however). Publications and photographs in the possession of the U.S. government (i.e. from the Library of Congress and National Archives), may or may not be in the public domain.

Although you need not request permission to use material from public domain works, you should give full credit to the source.