Once you have identified the owner(s), contact them to request permission.
Publishers often have websites that prescribe a method for contacting the copyright owner. Search the website for a permissions department or contact person. Be sure to confirm the exact name and address of the addressee and call the person or publishing house to confirm the copyright ownership.
If the copyright owner is an individual, you will need to do use internet/telephone searches to find the person. Be ready to introduce yourself and to explain carefully what you are seeking.
Do not send permissions letters to all possible rightholders simultaneously. Taking the time to find the person who most likely holds the copyright will better yield success. If you do not have much information about who actually owns the copyright, be honest with your contacts, and they may be able to help you find the right person.
Some copyright owners furnish their own permission form that may be downloaded from a website. If the copyright owner does not provide a permission agreement form, you may use one of the forms listed at the end of this section under resources and follow these important pointers when drafting your own permission letter.
The most effective letter will include detailed information concerning your request for permission to use the work. Be sure to include the following pertinent information:
|Who||Introduce yourself. Tell who you are and perhaps include a brief summary of your credentials.|
|What||Be as specific as possible when you cite and describe the work you wish to use. If you plan to use the entire work, say so. If you only need part, give details. For example: " I would like per mission to reproduce pages 113-142 of [full citation of book]. You may need to be more detailed or include copies of the material, especially if you are using photographic images, sound, or film clips.|
|How||Tell how you plan to use the work. Specify whether your use is commercial or nonprofit, for classroom learning or distance education, for research or publication, etc. Remember the permission you obtain is limited by its own terms.|
|When||State how long you plan to use the work, whether one semester or indefinitely. Some owners may be wary of granting permission for extended periods of times or for dates far in the future, but if that is what you need, ask.|
|Where and How||Include information about how and where the work will be used. Such uses may involve classroom copies, reserves, coursepacks, password protected online displays, etc. Include the exact or estimated number of copies that you wish to make or hte number of uses intended.|
|Why||Tell why you are contacting that person or entity for permission. If you are using materials from a library or archives, do not assume that the institution holds the copyrights. You need to investigate and ask.|
Sometimes you need to be patient and persistent, and sometimes the owner responds quickly. In any event, the reply can take any number of possibilities:
Keep a copy of everything! If you successfully obtain permission, keep a copy of all correspondence and forms. Also, keep a detailed record of your quest to identify and locate the copyright owner. Why keep these records? In the unlikely event that your use of the work is ever challenged, you will need to demonstrate your good efforts. That challenge could arise far in the future, so keep a permanent file of the records. Moreover, you might need to contact that same copyright owner again for a later use of the work, and your notes from the past will make your task easier.
What if I reach a dead end?
What can you do if you come to a "dead end" in your quest for obtaining permission for the use of a particular work? If you cannot find the owner or you are getting no reply, your work may be an "orphan work".
This page is licensed by a Creative Commons Attribution License with attribution to its author Dr. Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University)