Copyright: Requesting Permission
Requesting Permission Process
In the course of your teaching or writing, you are likely to be in situations when you want to use someone else's copyrighted material. Your first step is to determine whether you can reasonably make a fair use of the material. Visit the section on Fair Use and Exceptions to learn some exceptions to needing permission.
If not fair use, then you need to obtain permission
If you decide that your use is probably not a fair use, your next step is to ask for permission. For more information on how to do so, follow the instructions on the rest of this page.
Identify the copyright holder
For many works, the publisher is the copyright holder. Look for a copyright notice such as "© 2003 Imaginary University Press" or "copyright by C. Holder, 2003." Unfortunately, not all works will include a copyright notice, and it is also possible that the copyright has changed hands since the notice was printed.
What if I really can't locate the rightsholder?
For older works, especially for materials like photographs and audio recordings, it may be impossible to identify and locate the copyright holder — these are called "orphan works." Always keep documentation of your search for a copyright holder. There is still some risk associated with using orphan works, and in the event that you cannot find the copyright holder but decide to use the material anyway, documentation of your search could prove useful.
Publishers can often be contacted for permission through their website
An increasing number of publishers prefer that you make your request using a form on their websites. Others may require that you make your request via fax or email. Whenever possible, make your request in the format preferred by the copyright holder.
Send a permission letter
If the copyright holder does not have a set form for permission requests, send a letter. Below are links to samples of permission request letters that you can modify to suit your needs. Always keep copies of your correspondence, especially the signed permission forms. If you are sending your letter by mail, include an extra copy for the rights holder to keep, and a self-addressed stamped envelope for the reply.
- Model Permission Letters from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University Libraries
- Scholarly Communications Toolkit from Scholarly Communications @ Duke at Duke University Libraries
The information presented here is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. Legal questions involving Oklahoma State University should be directed to the Oklahoma A&M Office of Legal Counsel.