April 2010


On asking permission

Every year I get 3 or 4 emails requesting permission to use my work in other publications. Usually it is a request to use my photos—and my photos have been used in a textbook, a history magazine, an academic book, and in fliers for events. Every once in awhile I get a request to republish blog posts.

With that in mind, here are two requests I’ve received in the last year. Guess how I responded to each.

First up is a request to use photos I took in Nürnberg:

I am publishing a book and I would very much like to use two photos that you took and posted on your site. They are of the Tugendbrunnen in Nürnberg from your Flickr stream.

They are the best photos of the fountain that I know of. I would credit you by name in the publication.

Please let me know if you are amenable to this.

Second up is a request to use (edited) text from my blog—the edited except they wanted to use was below the signature:

My name is Catherine Hsieh. I’m the associate editor of NY Arts Magazine, a New York City-based contemporary arts publication. We are considering to feature Ondrej and Kristofer’s work in our upcoming Summer Issue, and have been requested by the artists to publish a review of their work by you.

I was hoping you would be willing to provide your real name for the byline as we don’t publish work anonymously. Please let me know what you think at your earliest convenience.

How would you have responded?

9 comments to On asking permission

  • I would definitely have said ‘yes’ to the first. I’d have to think about the second.

  • I would have said yes to the first, no to the second unless they drop the name requirement. Just last week I OK’d a Dutch travel company to use one of my Bulungal (South Africa) rondavel photos – with please a link back and credit. But to give up what remains of your anonymity just because someone asks? No, thanks.

  • Yes to the first, and no to the second.

    The first seems complimentary.

    I saw the NY Arts request as rather self serving, like they were doing you a favor by publishing your own work. A problem I saw repeatedly when I was working for a publisher.

  • The first: sure.

    The second: were they planning on paying you for it? I concur with CQ – it seems like they figure you’ve already done the work, so why should they bother? However, they should have offered compensation for giving up your anonymity.

  • I’ve also had some photos used in books and on online travel sites and considered the request a recognition of a good photo (good for my ego! :)) I’d definitely have responded positively to the first.

    The second is a little more difficult. If it were something I’d be happy to put my name next to, I’d probably do it, though it is a bit cheeky to ask for something like that for free.

    Either way, both are recognising good work, so you should feel honoured! 🙂

  • yg

    My response to these requests is always a quote from the great late Joker of The Dark Knight: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

    Very flattering that they seek you out though. The NY Arts thing might look pretty on a resume, but then again that all depends.

  • This is what I did: with the first one I sought to ensure that the book was legitimate and not directly contrary to anything I support. It’s actually for an academic book and the book is going to be published sometime this summer. In return I asked for a copy of the published work.

    As for the second one, I don’t actually object to using my real name, what I objected to was the fact that Catherine Hsieh presumed that permission was already granted and never actually asked for it. What she got in return was a very hostile letter that warning against using my work in her magazine without explicit permission. That was followed by questions about how the material would be presented in the magazine and what kind of compensation would be provided.

    Funny enough she responded “that there will not be any form of compensation as we are a small arts publication and we don’t have the means to offer that to artists or writers featured in the magazine.” Maybe she never thought to offer me a copy of the magazine–although I’m not certain that it would have been enough. Her initial email to me was really off-putting and her response to my email didn’t really show much awareness of why my email to her was slightly hostile.

  • Prashanth

    “and have been requested by the artists to publish a review of their work by you”

    so..it was the artists (Ondrej and Kristofer), who wanted your review and it was not the initiative of the publisher. So, the artists should have taken the permission first, am I right? At the same time, the artists are also liable to compensate you, if they want to use your review…am I right again?

    • I’m not sure who is ultimately responsible for asking me permission to use the work–if Ondrej and Kristofer are writing the article, and the publisher is like academic publishers, Ondrej and Kristofer should have asked me, but they didn’t; but if the publisher is nice the should ask for the artists–but they didn’t ask, they presumed.

      I might point out that I don’t think Ondrej is an artist, so the fact that the magazine is publishing an article about him says a lot more about the magazine than anything else. Ondrej (last time I looked, two weeks ago) hadn’t updated his website since I first wrote about him a couple years ago.