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Permissions FAQ

General Information

What are Permissions?

Permissions are licenses that grant you the right to use a portion of copyrighted material in another work or context. A “use” can nearly anything, but common examples include: reprinting a chapter from a Harvard University Press (HUP) book within another book or posted on a website; incorporating an Emily Dickinson poem into a poetry anthology; or reproducing an illustration within a textbook.

What uses are handled by the Permissions Department?

We handle any request to use of any portion—rather than the whole—of an HUP publication in a different context. This includes but is not limited to other books, websites, radio broadcasts, musical adaptations, art installations, and prop requests.

The only exception is if the resultant work is made up entirely of HUP material (e.g., an anthology of Emily Dickinson poetry), in which case, we may refer your request to the Subsidiary Rights Department.

What uses are not handled by the Permissions Department?

If you are seeking to . . .

Reprint portions of a work in a periodical for publicity purposes, either before or after the work’s publication

Use portions of a work in a teaching setting (e.g., course packets and electronic reserve)

Access or adapt a work into an alternative format for use by those with print-related disabilities

  • See Alternative Formats below

If you are seeking to . . .

  1. Reprint a work in its entirety

  2. Translate a work in its entirety

  3. Record an audio version of a work in its entirety (i.e., produce an audiobook)

  4. Adapt any significant portion of a work for film, television, live stage, and/or podcast

Before you Apply

How do I know if Harvard University Press is the rights holder of the material I want to use?

First—verify that the material you request comes from a book published by “Harvard University Press.”

If the book title page you are inquiring about says “Distributed by Harvard University Press” on behalf of an academic department or museum at Harvard University, please direct your permissions inquiry to that department.

Second—for any excerpt, passage, or portion you wish to use, confirm that the material has not been incorporated into our HUP text from another source. If the material has been quoted or incorporated from elsewhere, seek permission from the rights holder (e.g., publisher) of that source, not HUP.

Finally—for any figures, tables, maps, or illustrations you wish to use, confirm that the content is original to the HUP volume. There will usually be a credit line on the same page, or in a list elsewhere in the book. If that element belongs to another source, please contact that individual or institution directly.

Do I need to apply for permission? (Can you tell me if my proposed use is “fair use”?)

We are not able to advise you on fair use. Determining whether a particular use is “fair” is the responsibility of the individual or publisher using that material.

May I edit or adapt HUP material for my use? (For example, I would like to redraw the figure appearing on page X of your book, Y.)

To protect the integrity of our copyrighted material, we do not authorize any adaptations, modifications, re-drawings, or other changes to our content.


Do you have a fee schedule?

No, we cannot provide a standard fee schedule as each book and each proposed use is carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Does HUP provide price quotes?

Due to the high volume of applications we receive and process, we are unable to provide “quotes” or cost estimates and can consider applications for permissions only in cases where full publication details are available for review. We therefore recommend that you apply only when you are reasonably certain that our material is needed.

Which publication details will impact the fee for my license?

Fees are calculated according to the scope of your project. We take into consideration the following when assessing an application:

  • Which HUP material is being used

  • How much HUP material is being used

  • How much HUP material makes up your project

  • The number of formats being prepared (e.g., hardcover, paperback, ebook)

  • The number of languages you are requesting

  • How many copies you intend to distribute (i.e., how many people will buy or have access to the material?)

  • Whether and how your use of HUP material will be monetized

We do not consider territory and, unless otherwise noted, will always grant world distribution rights.

What forms of payment do the Permissions Department accept?

We currently accept:

  • Checks drawn against a United States bank

  • ACH bank transfers

  • Wire transfers

  • Credit Card, including VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and Maestro

We will provide an invoice with payment instructions if a fee is due.

Submitting an Application

What information will I need to have available in order to complete and submit an application?

We require the following information: 

  • Information about HUP’s book, including:

    • Full Title, including the edition, if applicable

    • Full Name of the author(s), editor(s), or translator(s)

    • The actual content you’re using:

      • For text excerpts: the opening and closing words and their respective page numbers for each continuous section of text

      • For illustrations: a title, caption, or figure number for each illustration, along with page number(s)

      • For poetry: each poem’s title or number, as well as the first quoted line and the last quoted line

  • Information about YOUR project, including:

    • Name of your publisher

    • Title of your project

    • Your project’s edition, if applicable*

    • Your project’s author(s), editor(s), and/or translator(s)

    • Your project’s tentative publication date

    • Your project’s length (e.g., page length; duration)

    • Your project’s formats*

    • Your project’s expected lifetime circulation, per format

    • Your project’s price, per format, if applicable

    • Your project’s language (default is English)**

  • In whose name the license and resultant invoice must be drafted

* Editions or formats that are abridged, expanded, or otherwise altered from the main work you describe are considered different uses (not just different formats) and they are subject to separate review and pricing. Please complete a separate application for any variants from your main use (e.g., a student edition).

** Harvard University Press does not grant permission for “all languages.” Requests for languages other than English are considered on a case-by-case basis and may require use of an existing translation.

How do I apply for permission?

All permissions applications must be submitted via our online form.

I have my own permissions license that I would like HUP to sign. How may I submit it to the Permissions Department?

As a matter of policy, HUP does not sign third-party permissions agreements. If we grant you permission, it will be with our own license with its own standard terms and conditions, which are non-negotiable.

What to Expect After You’ve Applied

How can I be sure that my application has been received and is being processed?

When you successfully submit an application, you will receive an automated confirmation email that contains a complete copy of the information you submitted. No further action is required on your part.

How long will it take to receive a response? How can I check on its status?

We process applications on a first come, first served basis. Due to the volume of applications we receive and process, we ask that you do not try to contact us to check on the status of your application. We make all efforts to issue a license or formal response within 4 weeks of our receiving your complete application. If we need more information from you, we will contact you sooner, within 2 weeks.

How can I expedite my application?

Due to the volume of applications we receive and process, and in the interest of fairness to other applicants, we are unable to expedite any application.

It’s been longer than the stated turnaround time for a response. How can I get in touch with you?

If you have not heard from us within four weeks, please email us at permissions_hup at

Making Changes After You’ve Applied (But Before You’ve Been Granted a License)

I submitted an application, but I realized I need to make a change. How do I submit changes to the HUP Permissions Department if I haven’t yet received a response?

If you have submitted an application that you have immediately recognized as needing a correction, please resubmit your full and complete application, being sure to choose “A replacement for a previous application” in the first question.

In the Summary of Corrections field, indicate clearly that this is a resubmission of an application already submitted and supply a concise description of why you are replacing your previously submitted application.

Alternative Formats

How can I get an HUP work in an alternative format for use by those with print-related disabilities?

To acquire copies of HUP titles suitable for use by individuals with print-related disabilities, please submit your request to one of our vendors:

United States:

Bookshare (

Learning Ally (

AccessText Network (


AccessText Network (

United Kingdom:

RNIB Bookshare (

If the title you want is not currently available on a given vendor’s list, you can submit a special-order request through that same vendor.

Emily Dickinson

Who controls the copyright to the poems of Emily Dickinson? Is Emily Dickinson’s poetry public domain? What about Emily Dickinson’s letters and manuscripts?

The copyright status of Emily Dickinson’s poetry is quite complex, as most of her poetry was published posthumously, in batches, and some poems have gone through several revisions. A handful of bowdlerized versions of her poems were published during her lifetime (and are thus public domain), but the bulk of her poetry, restored to its original presentation as seen in her manuscripts, wasn’t published until the 1920s and later.

At present, Harvard University Press controls all rights to the text of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, letters, and manuscripts, including poetry and letters that appear in other publishers’ editions, and all applications to quote or reprint Emily Dickinson material should go through the Harvard University Press Permissions Department. Images of handwritten letters and manuscript pages belong to the respective libraries that own those archives.

When assessing requests for Emily Dickinson material, we will let you know which selections are public domain and which are still under copyright and subject to license.