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 anything which amounts to more than 10% of a poem.
Publishers’ Licensing Services (PLS) provide a free service for checking and requesting copyright permissions for published poetry. If you want permission to reuse content from books, journals or magazines, we recommend you try www.plsclear.com (External content) first. You will be asked to register free on the site before entering your search. More information can be found on www.pls-permissions.com/ (External content) about various levels of search and requests you can access. Or you can look at a useful guide (External content) for making permission requests via PLS Clear (External content).
If you are an author / editor requesting permission to use a poem in your publication, PLS Permissions have put together a useful checklist (External content).
If you need advice, or would like help to find out who holds the copyright to a particular poet’s work, we can try to help. Please contact us using the ‘ask a librarian’ form.