Friday, May 23, 2014

Can Content Owners Demand High License Fees?

Dear Rich: I am working as a researcher for an educational publishing company. We use different materials (text, photos and illustration) in our textbooks. And, as a researcher, I have to secure permission from the owners of those materials. Some copyright holders grant us permission, but for some it would take many months before they give their response. Sometimes, we would receive their messages months after the book is printed. I would like to ask, do they have the right to demand for us to pay high permission/licensing fees for the distribution of their work? Yes, content owners -- with the exception of those governed by compulsory licenses -- can demand whatever fees they want and they can respond to requests whenever they want (if at all). That's frustrating and explains why people in your position begin their quests as early as possible. It also explains why publishers have shifted the permission burden to their authors. And it also may explain why some content users believe it's better to seek forgiveness than permission (and then deal with the fallout, if any). The latter can be a risky strategy, of course, especially with large well-heeled content owners. But on the other hand, there is also the possibility that the use won't be discovered, or if it is, that you will end up paying a not-unreasonable license fee.

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