Jump to Content

Copyright and Permissions

“A day is coming, when, in the eye of the law, literary property will be as sacred as whisky, or any other of the necessaries of life.” —Mark Twain

Quoting from Mark Twain

Under the “Fair Use” provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act, even works protected by copyright may be quoted in other publications (printed or electronic) provided that only a brief excerpt is quoted, and that the excerpt is reproduced for purposes such as criticism, comment, or education. No hard-and-fast rules can be given about what constitutes a “brief excerpt.”

Everything Mark Twain wrote that was published before 1923 is now in the public domain and therefore may be freely quoted or reproduced in its entirety, without permission or fees. In 1962, the University of California contracted with the copyright holder for the exclusive right to publish all then-unpublished writings of Mark Twain. Between 1962 and the end of 2002, the University of California's Mark Twain Project published all this unpublished material, either in print editions or on microfilm. Some of the material was first published or reprinted during this period by other publishers, under license from UC Press. Although the copyright on all such materials is held by the Mark Twain Foundation, the University of California controls the subsidiary rights to them for the duration of their copyright (through 2047).

In addition, texts edited by the Mark Twain Project and published by UC Press (such as, for example, the Project's 2003 edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) are also protected, and may not be reproduced without permission.

This complex publishing and copyright history means that the copyright status of each individual article, letter, dictation, or other literary work must be ascertained before UC and the Mark Twain Foundation can decide whether permission to republish is required. However, as noted above, no permission is required to quote from anything Mark Twain wrote; such permission is conferred either by the work's being in the public domain, or by the provisions of “Fair Use.”

It is the responsibility of those wishing to reprint Mark Twain's writings to determine whether any given text is protected by copyright. To reproduce any protected work, you must seek and be granted permission from the copyright holder. Mark Twain Project Online offers some of this information, but cannot offer, either online or by other contact, comprehensive information about rights and permissions.

Selecting “Details” for any text or item in the catalog may give information about its publishing history and/or current location. This information would be at least a first step in discovering the current copyright status of a text. Please note that some entries do not give complete publication histories.

Below is the statement archived with Mark Twain Project Online's letter texts, in the header of each TEI-XML file:

All words written or dictated by Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) are in the public domain if they were first published before 1923. All words written or dictated by Mark Twain which were published between 1923 and 2002, and their copyrights renewed where required by law, are copyright © by Richard A. Watson and J.P. Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank as trustees of the Mark Twain Foundation, which reserves all reproduction or dramatization rights in every medium. All editorial transcriptions, reconstructions, decipherments, explanatory comments, identifications of correspondents, places, and dates are copyright © 1988, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2006, 2007, and 2009 by The Regents of the University of California.

Learn more about copyright:

Fair Use from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright and Fair Use Overview from Stanford University Libraries.

Copyright and Permissions Resources from the American Association of University Presses.


At present, no fee is required to quote from anything Mark Twain wrote, regardless of its copyright status. This is assured by the provisions of "Fair Use." Licensing fees are charged for permission to reproduce entire works by Mark Twain, and use fees for all materials held uniquely by The Bancroft Library will also be required.

The scholarly and technological work of the Mark Twain Project and Mark Twain Project Online is costly. Revenues from licensing benefit the Mark Twain Foundation, which in turn makes annual grants to organizations that promote the study of Mark Twain and his time, including the Mark Twain Papers and the Mark Twain publishing program of the University of California Press.

Learn more about how you can support Mark Twain Project Online.

Copyright Holders

The following are the primary organizations that hold copyright on the writings and papers of Mark Twain.

UC Press: Contact for permission to reproduce extensive text from any UC Press edition (printed or electronic), or for any of the material in microfilm.

Copyright on all editorial transcriptions, reconstructions, decipherings, introductions, textual and explanatory notes, identifications of correspondents, places, and dates, in print, microfilm, or electronic editions produced by the Mark Twain Project, is held by the Regents of the University of California.

To learn more, visit UC Press.

Mark Twain Foundation: Contact for permission to reproduce some works published between 1923 and 1962, as well as for dramatization rights.

All copyrights on Mark Twain's works are held by Richard A. Watson and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank as Trustees of the Mark Twain Foundation, which reserves all reproduction or dramatization rights in every medium. The Mark Twain Foundation has contracted with the University of California to give Mark Twain Project Online exclusive rights to publish copyright-protected content.

To write to the Mark Twain Foundation:
Richard A. Watson
Chamberlain, Willi, Ouchterloney, & Watson
494 Eighth Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Mark Twain Papers: Contact for permission to reproduce images and other materials (such as letters to Clemens or to his family) in the Mark Twain Papers archive.

Permission to publish photographs and other images held by the Mark Twain Papers must be applied for in writing. Permission to publish in these cases does not constitute copyright permission—only permission from the institution to reproduce its materials, provided the copyright holder's requirements have been met. Neither the Mark Twain Papers nor the Library Photographic Service is responsible for the misuse of copyrighted material.

Mark Twain Papers
Attn: Permissions
The Bancroft Library, Room 475
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000