This page provides an overview of procedures for contacting and requesting permission from a copyright owner to use a copyrighted work. If you already know exactly what you want and are in communication with the copyright owner, you may go directly to one of the model permission letters available through this page.
Procedures for Securing Permission
Permission is not always required to use a work, depending on the work you choose or on your intended use. You may need to secure permission if you determine that the work you have selected to use is protected by copyright (i.e., not in the public domain), its inclusion does not meet conditions for fair use, and that no other statutory exceptions apply. If you are just beginning the process, you may need to carefully consider the steps for securing permission, as detailed below.
What if I can't get permission or they charge a fee? The holder(s) of a copyright is not obligated to reply to or fulfil a request to reuse, and they can request a fee for reuse (Smith, Macklin, & Gilliland, 2012). Here are some options if this is prohibitive for your work:
Please note: The FAU Libraries does not assist with requesting copyright permissions (with the exceptions of interlibrary loan requests and items in Course Reserves).
Source: Smith, K., Macklin, L.A., Gilliland, A. (2012). Copyright for educators and librarians [Online course]. Coursera. https://www.coursera.org.
Originality Statement: Columbia University Libraries (n.d.). Permissions and licensing: Asking for permission. https://copyright.columbia.edu/basics/permissions-and-licensing.html. Permission by CC BY 4.0 with some changes.
Individuals or publishers often own a copyright. For works like images, music, theater, or motion picture, a performers rights agency usually manages permissions. Once you have identified the copyright holder or their rights agency, contact them to request permission.
Contacting Publishers and Rights Agencies. Publishers often have websites that prescribe a method for contacting the copyright owner, so 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, publisher, or agency to confirm the copyright ownership.
Contacting Individuals. If the copyright owner is an individual, you will need to do the usual Internet and telephone searches to find the person. Be ready to introduce yourself and to explain carefully what you are seeking.
Tips for Contacting a Copyright Owner:
A “nonexclusive” permission may be granted by telephone or handshake, but an “exclusive” permission or a transfer of the copyright must be in writing and signed by the copyright owner. In all cases, a clearly written document with a signature is useful to confirm exactly what is permitted.
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 model letters provided on this page. Follow these important pointers when drafting your own permission letter.
A most effective letter will include detailed information concerning your request for permission to use the work. Be sure to include the following pertinent information:
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 the 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 where it may have copyright but its copyright holder cannot be identified.
The following letters can be used to request the use of copyright materials through copyright holders. Add relevant information about yourself, the work you wish to use, and their purposes where indicated in the letters.
Legal experts recommend keeping records of your requests to use copyrighted works. The following handouts can help you keep track. Also, see the links for additional details for making your request.