“A publisher wants to charge me hundreds of dollars to ‘reprint’ something that is widely available for free online…”

“A publisher wants to charge me hundreds of dollars to ‘reprint’ something that is widely available for free online…”

Q –

I want to quote a poem from another author in my book. I contacted a publisher that has the piece in one of their books. They’re quoting me hundreds of dollars to reproduce the text in my book. But, there are countless websites that have already republished this exact poem. 

It’s not in the public domain. What should I do?

A –

First, please know that just because something is posted anywhere and everywhere online doesn’t mean most or all of those websites are NOT committing copyright infringement. In fact, they probably ARE violating copyright law.

However, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a publisher trying to earn a few bucks on something they may not actually own the rights to.

Here’s the problem:

If they don’t own the rights, and even if you pay them, republishing the text without permission of the actual copyright holder means you’ve committed copyright infringement.

I researched the poem you sent to me and there are indeed countless websites that have reproduced, both as text, and in graphics (memes). It’s a really nice poem and I can see why people like it so much. However, that doesn’t excuse what appears to be rampant copyright infringement. I doubt all of the websites I found paid hundreds to publish that poem.

Your best bet is to contact the author directly. If she is deceased, research online to find her family. THEY should be benefitting from this transaction; not a greedy publisher who is charging people for “reprints” even if that entity may not (and probably does not) own exclusive rights to the piece.


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