Tips on Getting Publishing Permission


I just obtained a copy of "The HP-IL SYSTEM: An Introductory Guide to the Hewlett-Packard Interface Loop." With a view toward preservation, I've diassembled the book, which was having problems with the binding anyway, and scanned it into a PDF. I'd love to share this with the community. The copyright is held by "OSBORNE/McGraw-Hill" and is dated 1982.

It appears the above named entity may be the education division of McGraw-Hill now. I've found the address to write to in order to ask permission to redistribute "portions" of McGraw-Hill copyrighted material. What I want is to ask for permission to redistribute the whole enchilada. Basically, this would mean abandoning the copyright.

I have no idea how likely it is that McGraw-Hill will agree to this, but here is my pitch:

  • The book is highly specialized and long out of print
  • HP has made most of the source documents referred to free to redistribute
  • There is a vibrant (take a bow) though small community with an interest in the material contained in the book.
  • I'm not interested in making money off the text. I just want to add it to the public corpus of knowledge.
  • Won't you please please please help?

As I say, I have no idea if this pitch will work. What do folks here think? Is there a way I can increase the (rather long, I think) odds that McGraw-Hill will be generous?



Naturally, you will want to give them a copy of your PDF. You will state clearly that rights remain with the publisher, and all your copies will reflect that. Perhaps you can also inform them of various places that are accepting digitized book content "for the ages" (incuding MoHPC) so they see this is not just a one-of-a-kind effort.


I'd be submitting my request on paper, so I can't include the PDF. I can offer to include any disclaimer or rights statement they might wish to add, however.

I guess your second point would fit pretty neatly in between the third and fourth bullets above.


Naturally, you will want to give them a copy of your PDF.

Um, no, you don't want to provide them with evidence that a copyright they hold has already been infringed. Converting a book to PDF, even just for your own use, is not clearly within the bounds of "fair use". Better to present a hypothetical question.

Perhaps you can also inform them of various places that are accepting digitized book content "for the ages"

Been there, done that. Doesn't impress them, at least not in a positive way.



Your best bet is if the rights reverted to the author (Kane, IIRC). If not, you face an uphill battle.

I've been through this before. Publishers in general, and McGraw-Hill in particular, are not very willing to grant permission for reproduction of a complete work, even if it's something out of print and not generating any revenue. They are accustomed to granting permission for small excerpts or a chapter or two.

If I were doing this, my first question to them before even broaching the subject of permissions would simply be to ask if they have retained the copyright, or if it has reverted.



Hi Howard,

if I am not wrong I think that it is already available on TOS or, at least, it was.

I have this book too and made a PDF scan for my own use a couple of years back.



For what it's worth, I tried and failed to get permission for that book from the publisher last year.


Now that's interesting. What sort of approach did you try? Did you write to the address given at ? What was the response if any?

Thanks for any insight you can offer. It could save me time on the one hand, or make my pitch more effective on the other. 8)


Yes I wrote to that address. There were two letters from them and two from me over several months but I'm not sure where I filed them. I'll look around some more. As I recall it was a fairly vague bureaucratic non-affirmative kind of semi-answer.


Ah, yes. A FVBNAKOSA. It's the kind of thing you get when you ask a corporate lawyer anything of substance. 8)


Hi Howard, guys;

Howard wrote:

HP has made most of the source documents referred to free to redistribute
As the codes from HP are free for redistribution, I'd volunteer myself to take the scanned images where the original HP codes are shown, cut them, úse an OCR to generate an ASCII equivalent text and send it back to you so you could release the codes in an original PDF file with the necessary comments of what can be done with the programs or the keystrokes, if applicable, without using the original text from the book. We have many known contributors that are experts on dealing with HPIL that could also add some original remarks, making this suggested original PDF even better. I guess you could also refer to both HP and the book as the sources, plus the names of all contributors who added something to the final text and McGraw Hill publishers will not be able to complaint for that (hope they are not reading this...)

I am trying to finish some repairs in some HP calculators with me (one CX mainboard that belongs to M.B., one HP29C that belongs to R.T. and two HP41 plus three HP25 that belong to J.E.), and I believe I'm having time to generate these listings when taking a time to think of what to do next (I also have a few other HP calculator related activity, but they are not repair activities). If you actually can do that - use an OCR and generate typed text or simply key the programs in and save the final listings somehow - and you are willing to go ahead, wow! We will all be grateful. Otherwise, have you found yourself needing some help, let us know.

Best regards.

Luiz (Brazil)


Thanks for the offer, Luiz.

Unfortunately, it's not that kind of a book. It's a very detailed and technical description of HP-IL, but there isn't a single byte of actual code or a program listing anywhere. All of the information covered is in the other docs, such as the chip description, the spec and the technical notes. But the book's value is in organizing this information in a concise and readable form. Unfortunately, that's exactly the stuff that is covered by copyright.

I'm going to try to pick up where Dave left off in getting permission for publication. Eric's suggestion of asking whether M-H still retains the copyright is a good one. (But did Dave ask this question?) Otherwise, I think I will try to slip the request in to the company through the general legal department. The education legal department is set up to say "yes" to requests from educators for limited copying. I suspect they would say "no" to a request like this as a matter of reflex.

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