When selecting material for use in your courses or research, sometimes you may come across a resource that you would like to use, but do not know if it is permissible to do so. In this case, you will want to obtain permission from the content creator or related party. In this section, we discuss how you can request permission, and to determine if requesting permission is needed.
1. The first step in the process is determining whether you do need permission. This can be difficult in the current electronic environment, but there are some definitive markers to look for:
- Your use of the material qualifies as "fair use."’
- This situation must be approached with caution!
- The fact of your use being educational does not in and of itself mean that copyright does not apply. Please see the tab Fair Use Guidelines of our site for more specific information on the factors that will determine if your proposed use would fall under this provision.
- If none of the above applies you will need to obtain permission for the work.
- Contact the owner through the website in which you found the work.
- For works published after 1978, you may look up the owner information online at The US Copyright Office. For works published before 1978, you would have to request the Office to manually search for you.
- Check websites devoted to finding copyright owners of different mediums.
- Copyright Clearance Center
- The WATCH file
- Copyright Center for the National Association of Music Education
- Motion Picture Licensing Corporation
Note: Different formats of a work might require different rights. For example, using a song might require permission from the performing artist, publishing house, record company, etc... If you are unsure of which rights may be needed, please contact the relevant authority or your librarian.
2. Once you have determined the copyright owner of the work you would like to use, you can request permission. The permission you request will depend on several factors, such as the format, and the setting in which you intend to use the work – whether it be in the classroom, at a conference, etc.
There are template letters available on the web that can facilitate the writing of your request. Links to a few pages where these may be found are listed here as examples:
Always make sure to retain a record if you are given permission to use a copyrighted work in case questions about your use and permission arise.