One of the main problems that become apparent in the permissions world is the fact that many institutions require that anyone who wants to use their image in a book pay for both the image and the permission. But often the institution doesn’t actually have rights to the image if the object is already in the public domain.
As long as I've been at the Penn State Press I've been trying to get John Cech's book on the poetics of Maurice Sendak back into print. It was published in 1996, before I came to the Press, and it was pretty well received, but it then quickly went out of print. The roadblock to bringing it back into print came when we approached HarperCollins, Sendak's usual publisher, about using the illustrations for a second printing.
This particular book was living in limbo—though the publisher had printed a total of 12,000 copies in hardback and paperback editions, it was now out of print and its second life in the used book market was slowly fading as students, historians, and book lovers hoarded it.