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Tips on how not to get permission to use someone's content

Based on an obnoxious email I just got

     
8:05 pm on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I got a weird form letter type email the other day from an author about to publish a commercial book asking for me for permission to include some popular parts of one of my sites in his book.

It was a "dear sir" site type email - the author hadn't even bothered to look at my home page or contact page to find out my name, didn't offer to mention my site in the book, didn't offer to pay me, didn't say please, didn't give any reason as to why he liked the content or why I should let him use it.

How rude is that? I'd expect behavior like that from people who run spam web sites, but from a published author it seems like he should have at least some clue that there are much more effective and more polite ways he could have worded his request.

8:15 pm on Sept 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Perhaps he thinks you should be grateful that he would deign to put your content in his fabu book. :)

I think a large number of people just don't appreciate proper interpersonal communication skills. This author could be the nicest guy in the world, but because his interpersonal skills are lacking, he wrote a pretty deplorable request for your blessing. Hopefully, his book-writing skills are better!

9:30 pm on Sept 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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maybe another type of spammer.
10:06 pm on Sept 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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maybe another type of spammer.

Not a spammer- a scraper. The guy wants to include YOUR content in HIS book that will give HIM royalties when people buy it. (In fact, YOU have to pay HIM just to see the book with YOUR content in it!) I see little difference between him and people who steal online content and throw up some advertising to monetize it.

I do hope you told him no, or at least offered to license the content to him.

[edited by: LifeinAsia at 10:06 pm (utc) on Sep. 27, 2006]

10:45 pm on Sept 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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You may be surprised...

Firstly, I'd ask of them the questions you asked here, and then some. If they can/will not answer then make your own judgement...

However, I have been approached in the past and have received similar automated/impersonal requests (typically by fax...). Consider that the author may be using many snippets of text from a multitude of sources - and is working to a deadline. Putting a ribbon around the request is sometimes not an option for them.

Regardless, you have the power to deny permission to be quoted in a book - at the very least you have the right to negotiate terms.

Syzygy

10:56 pm on Sept 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I see little difference between him and people who steal online content and throw up some advertising to monetize it.

I agree.

Actually, I just realized my name is even on my contact page where I have my email address. So the guy must have gone to my contact page to email me, yet couldn't even be bothered to read far enough to fill in my name on his release request.

11:00 pm on Sept 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Why not have a rant at the person seeking permission and see what feedback you get..?

Syzygy

12:06 am on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Well if it is seems kosha, email him back with those thoughts, ask what he intends, where and how you will be acknowledged and what payment he is offering..

Just because he is an unprofessional idiot doesn't mean you have to be..

[edited by: Lobo at 12:07 am (utc) on Sep. 28, 2006]

12:32 am on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I just said no, he couldn't use the content.

I don't know why this email bugged me. I get a lot of weird emails in the course of the year. For most of them I just hit the delete key, block the email address and never think twice about it.

1:54 am on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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unprofessional idiot

Though I do all that I can to avoid getting tagged with this description myself, I have found myself in the position being given more work/responsibility than can reasonably be done well within time/budget constraints - then, as 'point' person, I look like an unprofessional idiot; despite being thrust into a lose-lose situation. Don't know what the real truth is here, but a lot of people would do better work given the opportunity.

6:40 pm on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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10+ years ago, when I started in my current job, if we wanted to use something from a previously published article in a new one, we wrote a nice little request letter with all the necessary information in it. We usually even had the name of a human being to send it to.

Now the same thing is accomplished by going to a journal's website, hitting the "permissions" button and filling out an online form with all the information we used to put into our nice little letters. Hit the submit button and it disappears into the faceless "Permissions Department".

I'm not saying it wouldn't have been nice if the requester had written a more personal note, but it would take a lot of personal notes to "turn the ship around" at this point.

ETA: That said, there's no reason for someone to be actively rude and obnoxious - which takes more time and energy than being simply nonpersonal.

[edited by: Beagle at 6:44 pm (utc) on Sep. 28, 2006]

6:42 pm on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Could have been a canned letter that he sent to the owners of serveral sites and so it was lacking detail or butt-smooching.

In my experience a "Dear Sir" letter is usually canned.

6:50 pm on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Funny, I am batting 1.000 on getting permission that I ask for. I'll use my last two as examples.

I was writing an article about a certain energy efficient feature in a home. I found the site of someone that was a true artist in his construction methods, and had some wonderful pictures.

I sent him a personal email, complimenting his work, and asked him if I could use them in the article that I was writing. I promised that I would give him full credit and a link to his site. I also offered to let him preview the article to make sure that he was happy with the use of his material. He said yes, ended up giving me some suggestions for improvements in the article, and even suggested Someone who live nearby who does similar work for wehn I build my new house.

The other one is someone that is shutting down his website due to health reasons. He had a couple of articles that I had found to be incredibly helpful a couple of years ago, and I hated to see them disappear. I wrote to him, mentioned that I would hate to see them just disappear, and I would agree to whatever non-monetary terms he might set on it, including no advertising. He gave me full rights as long as I gave him complete credit, ads are fine.

I think that an honest appeal to the ego goes a long way, as does being honest about what you are intending to do with the work. If you just want to get something for free, you aren't going to get very far, but if your work compliments their work, you will get a lot farther.

7:26 pm on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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the author may be using many snippets of text from a multitude of sources - and is working to a deadline. Putting a ribbon around the request is sometimes not an option for them.

He wasn't asking for a snippet - he was asking to copy a whole top ranking section of one of my sites for free yet couldn't be bothered to even look up my name. The guy has a book on the same topic as one of my web sites so he is basically a competitor looking for free content. It wasn't like he was a journalist asking for permission to use a quote from my site. (At least he wasn't writing a book on interpersonal skills or business etiquette.)

Why would an author even want to use an article in a book if he didn't even know who wrote the article?

[edited by: Jane_Doe at 7:32 pm (utc) on Sep. 28, 2006]

8:35 pm on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Consider that the author may be using many snippets of text from a multitude of sources - and is working to a deadline. Putting a ribbon around the request is sometimes not an option for them.

If it's a dead tree book, then there is no excuse for this.

You either ask nice right up front, before you include the copyrighted information in your book, and long before deadlines become an issue. Or you ask extremely nice when the deadlines become an issue, because you don't want to make any significant changes with that looming deadline.

Your deadline is your problem, not the problem of the copyright holder. Plan ahead.

8:48 pm on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Here are two that won't work with me.

Send me an email telling me that you need to use a couple of my photos in your article and that I need to edit the high res version and get it to you by tommorow morning so you can make your deadline.

Uh, no thanks. And I really don't care about your deadlines. And I don't edit shared photos unless I feel the need to do so. You want the image edited, you edit it, unless I say that you can't.

Email me a request that includes telling me I need to prove that I hold the copyright to my photos or you won't be able to do me the incredible favor of using them.

Go take your own photos at the event that was held three years ago, ok?.

8:54 pm on Sept 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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One of our sites is a country-specific site with a lot of content (travel, culture, history, etc.).

Pretty much every week I get messages along the lines of "Send me information about [country]." No "please," sometimes a "thank you," but certainly not narrowing down the topic. My usual response in that case: "The information is on the site."

6:27 pm on Oct 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Dear Sir,

My standard free for allowing authors to use parts of my writing in their published works is $5,499 plus tax depending on the area you live in. You must include a citation that gives my name and website address. You can not use more than 1000 words and 4 images. Make check payable to Jane Doe, and send to 123 Elm, State 12345. Thank you and have a nice day.

Jane Doe

6:37 pm on Oct 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

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My standard free for allowing authors to use parts of my writing in their published works is $5,499

Great answer. I wish I'd thought of that. I'll be sure to use it next time.

 

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