The basic rule about copyright is that the poet needs to have been dead for 70 years or more before his or her work is freely available. If they died more recently than that, or if still alive, you need permission to reproduce their work.
There are sometimes exceptions to this rule, depending on what the work is being used for. Please see the Intellectual Property Office’s Exceptions to copyright (external content) page for more information.
We no longer hold contact details for poets or their estates on file due to GDPR restrictions. We can still try to help you find the correct person to contact – please use the Ask a Librarian form and choose ‘I have a question about copyright or permissions.’
Here are a few resources you can search:
- The WATCH File (Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders) (external content) is a database jointly run by the Harry Ransom Center and the University of Reading Library. You can search for the copyright holders of a poet or writer you are interested in by name or surname.
- In many occasions, publishers will either have details of copyright holders, or hold the copyright to a work themselves. It’s always worth checking who last published the poet that you are interested in and contacting them – they may have the information you seek.
- Publishers’ Licensing Services (PLS) provide a free service for checking and requesting copyright permissions for published works. If you want permission to reuse content from books, journals or magazines, we recommend you try www.plsclear.com (external content, opens in new tab) first. You will be asked to register free on the site before entering your search. There is more information and help articles on using PLS Clear available (external content, opens in new window). Or you can look at a useful quick guide (external content, opens in new tab) for making permission requests via PLS Clear. You can also search PLS Clear using the widget below.