From the Desk of the Permissions Editor: Trial and Error

by Nadine Bachan

Published at 2011-12-27

When the year is coming to an end, it is often the time to wrap things up. That being said, this will be the last blog in the Permissions Editor series. This final blog will further explore the quest for e-rights and offer a positive look at the dreaded situation (and it will happen) when finding a copyright holder can start feeling like a wild goose chase.

E-Rights: Who Owns What?
Resources like the Copyright Clearance Center make securing permissions as simple as the click of a button. But sometimes, these easily acquired licences don’t cover everything. Many times (particularly for titles originally printed in the 1980s and earlier), only print rights can be acquired from publishers and rights brokers.
Why not e-rights? Because, back in the pre-Internet days, publishers had no idea that our future would be so immersed in the World Wide Web. Therefore, publishing contracts did not include these then-unforeseen electronic forms of publication. In these cases, the authors (or literary agents or estate executors if the author has since died) hold the e-rights, even though they too may not be aware that they hold such rights. Locating these individuals can be difficult, but be resourceful and vigilant. More often than not, you’ll find them.
Because Sometimes the Journey Can Seem So Long …
Permissions, as I’ve mentioned, is a quest. Some quests are short, many are long, and a few can seem to have no end in sight. I experienced one such occasion recently. I was sent to several different publishers and, after months of redirection, I ended up making a full circle — back to my first query. No one seemed to own the copyright.
It was frustrating and the search seemed hopeless. But there are options. Sometimes, it helps to ask people to check again, please. Re-opening a query might result in a “Eureka!” moment. Things get buried, old books are overlooked; it happens.
So, what do you do when you just can’t find the copyright holder? Before giving up the search, there is one last-resort option Canadians can try. Contact the experts at the Copyright Board of Canada. It has a division specifically for “Unlocatable Copyright Holders.” If anyone can help, it’s them.
For everyone here at TEC, I’d like to wish all our readers a wonderful holiday season. We’ll been back in 2012!