Quoting others' work

If you reproduce material from another source in your publication, you must generally get permission from the copyright owner in writing. This is in addition to the normal academic practice of referencing sources. Your publisher will expect you to secure these permissions yourself and to warrant that you have done so. Publishers often demand that you provide copies of the permissions. This is often referred to as obtaining copyright clearance.

Examples of material for which you will have to get permission to reproduce include:

  • long quotations – your publisher may give you guidance on the maximum number of words they will accept without a permission
  • figures and tables
  • test items and questionnaires
  • samples of music
  • clips of video or film
  • musical compositions and sound recordings
  • song lyrics
  • illustrations

Permission is not required if copyright has expired.

In writing for permission you should be very clear about exactly what you want, how you intend to use it, the nature and purpose of the new work you are creating, the size and nature of the intended audience, and how you intend to distribute it. If you consult the websites of major publishers, you will often find quite detailed guidelines on how to ask for permission, or even an online form. You need to allow plenty of time for the process – plan months in advance. If you do not receive a reply from the copyright owner, you still cannot use the material. You should retain the permissions on file in such a way that you could produce them if required.

The Australian Copyright Council website provides information sheets that give further advice on seeking permissions and tracing copyright owners.

You may not need to get permission if your use of the quoted work is for the purpose of criticism, review, parody or satire, and your use qualifies as a 'fair dealing'.