Permissions Guidelines

Fair Use

One of the most important limitations to copyright is the doctrine of “fair use.” There is no formula to ensure that a predetermined percentage or amount of a work (specific number of words, lines, pages, or copies) may be used without permission. Rather, determining whether the fair use privilege applies in any given situation requires consideration of the factors below.

  • The purpose and character of the use. Does the new work serve as a substitute for the original or instead add something new, with a further purpose or different character—i.e., is it transformative?
  • The nature of the copyrighted work. Is the material being used factual or is it creative? The former is more likely to be considered fair use than is reuse of creative content such as a poem, play, or song.
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used. The more material you take, the more likely it is that your work will serve as a substitute for the original work, adversely affecting the value of the copyright owner’s work. There is no absolute limit for fair use. It all depends on the circumstances. How much of the whole are you using? Do the brief excerpts that you are reproducing represent the “heart of the work”?
  • The effect of the use upon the market of the copyrighted work. Will your use adversely and substantially impact the potential market for the original work?

For more on fair use, visit Stanford University Copyright & Fair Use Project, or Columbia University Fair Use Checklist.

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 before January 1, 1923, and anything first published in the United States before January 1, 1964, for which copyright was not renewed. All works of the US 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 US 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. For more on Public Domain, visit the Cornell University Copyright Information Center or the Stanford University Copyright & Fair Use Project.


  • Two types of permissions can be factors for images. One is copyright permission, which must be sought from a copyright holder. The second factor is permission to use a reproduction of an image, which often must be sought from a stock agency, gallery, or museum. There may be cases where you need permission from the copyright holder as well as from an image resource. Likewise, an image may be in the public domain, but you still need to contact an image resource for permission and a file for reproduction.
  • Where a chart, graph, or table is being reproduced in a critical study of the work or to buttress an argument of the writer, no permission is needed. Data is not copyrightable. Unless there is a creative element to data depiction that is being reproduced without alteration, fair use can be asserted, with attribution.
  • Fair use is difficult to assert for artistic works (photographs, architectural works, and illustrations). Permission should be sought for images published after 1923.
  • Film stills are generally considered to fall within the realm of fair use for scholarly publishing.

The selective use of copyrighted images for the purposes of scholarship, review, criticism, evidence, or evaluation is generally recognized as fair use and does not require permission. For more information regarding best practices in the application of fair use, visit College Arts Association (CAA).


Although usually brief or a small portion of a larger work, epigraphs that consist of quotations from works still under copyright do not always meet the criteria of fair use. An author may use brief quotations or poetry to introduce chapters and sections of a work, provided that there is articulable relevance between the quotation and content of the section in question. However, if the text of the epigraph is simply decorative, permission must be secured. Attribution to the original source is always required.

Music Lyrics

Music lyrics are typically heavily copyrighted. Princeton University Press recommends seeking permission from the appropriate copyright holder to reproduce lyrics.

Cover Art

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

Publications Written or Cowritten by You

If your Princeton University Press publication includes material (or is derived from material) previously published by you, you must request permission from the original publisher(s) 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 explicitly cover publications. The wording of the release should conform to the ethical guidelines of your field of study and/or professional organization.

Release Form Templates

Interview Release Form

Use this form for interviews you complete as part of the research for your book. This release informs interview subjects that their interviews may be quoted or paraphrased in your book.

Sample Interview Release Form

Photograph Release Form

Use the language in this sample letter to secure permission for photographs and/or high-resolution files from a living photographer. By signing this, photographers grant nonexclusive world/all language rights to Princeton University Press to reproduce photography within your book, as noted on the license.

Sample Photograph Release Form