If materials you need to use for courses or research are under copyright (not in the public domain), you will need to obtain permission from the copyright owner to use them. Failure to do so could result in legal action for infringement. The exceptions to obtaining permission would be if your use of the material fell under "fair use" or had a "creative commons" license attached to it.
Follow these standard steps in obtaining copyright permissions:
1. Determine if permission is needed
2. Identify the copyright owner.
3. Obtain permission
4. Acknowledge permission
Determine if Permission is Needed
- Permission is not required for use of materials in the public domain.
- Use of copyrighted materials that fall under "fair use" may be done without permission. But keep in mind that you need to weigh your use of the material against EACH of fair use guidelines (and there is always a chance you could be wrong. Additionally, remember that use of material for educational purposes does not automatically make it fair use.
- Works that are licensed under Creative Commons may be reused without seeking permission from the copyright owner, but there are several types of Creative Commons licenses, each with different stipulations (so be careful).
- See the "Public Domain Works" "Fair Use Guidelines," and :Creative Commons Works" pages for more information.
Identify the Copyright Owner
- Do not assume the creator of a work (author, artist, song writer, photographer) is the copyright owner. The owner could be a publishing house, recording studio, or some other company.
- For materials published in print, start by contacting the publisher. Publisher websites typically provide a link to copyright owner information and/or contact information for those seeking permission.
- The Copyright Clearance Center and WATCH websites can assist in determining copyright ownership.
- If the publisher does not own the copyright, they should be able to refer you to who does. In many instances this is the author, artist, or their estate.
- Many works have multiple copyright owners (works with writing, photographs, and images may have different copyright owners for each). If this is the case, you may have to obtain multiple permissions.
- ALWAYS request permission in writing so you have a record.
- Be patient, a permission request or denial can take some time.
- Information to include when asking permission to use a copyright work:
- Author's name
- Title, edition, volume, chapter etc....
- ISBN or ISSN
- Copyright date
- Number of copies desired
- Name of college
- Instructor's name
- Number of copies needed
- Course name and number
- If you are denied permission or do not hear back from the copyright owner, be prepared with an alternate plan such as using materials that are not under copyright, using material that falls under fair use, or trying to obtain permission on alternate material.
If permission is granted, make sure to acknowledge the permission of the copyright owner according to any instructions. If there are no instructions, acknowledge them in a manner appropriate to your discipline.
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.