Posted by Mr. Q at 6:00 AM Wednesday, December 28, 2011
How do you get permission? The copyright is likely held by the Ruth Heller Trust Fund but we think the place to start your request is with Grosset and Dunlap/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, the publisher. They have an online permission system and a set of FAQs explaining the process and their online database indicates they control about a dozen Ruth Heller books. If the coloring book you are using is not covered, perhaps G&P can lead you to the proper source or to the trust.
Can you use it without permission? We think including one or two images (with proper attribution) would probably not trigger a cease and desist letter. Although the copyright pages of the coloring books don't specifically grant permission for uses like yours, a coloring book is an implied invitation to create a derivative work. It can also probably be argued that the sale of a coloring book implies a limited right to post and reproduce the resulting "colored-in" works. And for what it's worth, the company has not objected to the posting of colored-in versions of their imagery at Amazon. Again, we can't guarantee that the copyright owner won't object to your use, but it's difficult to imagine that they would.