Requesting Permission

The safest route to using copyrighted work is to obtain permission from the copyright holder. With permission, you may be able to use the entire work or to use it ways not allowed by fair use.

There are 3 ways to approach requesting permission:

1. Contact the publisher

If the work you want to use is a published work (book, article, etc.), it's probably best to contact the publisher directly

2. Collective rights agencies

Some fields have central offices to facilitate the permission request process.  See the list of major collective rights agencies.

3. Contact the copyright holder

If a work has not been published or commercially released, try to determine the author/creator and contact that person directly.

Permission Request

As you prepare your permission request letter, be sure to include these elements:

  • How you plan to use the work
  • The portion of the work you want to use. Give page numbers, time references for audio or video works.
  • How the work will be distributed (on a password protected web site, only to the students on a class, class handout, etc.)
  • How long the work will be available
  • Why the work is essential to your work
  • Your name and contact information
  • A section the copyright holder can sign and return to you documenting that permission was granted

Here are few examples of frameworks for permission requests:

Sample letter requesting permission to use copyrighted material without a charge
Sacramento State University Library

Sample Letter Requesting Permission
Office of General Counsel, University of Texas System

Sample Copyright Permission Request
K-State Office of Academic Personnel

What if I can't find the copyright owner?

Even with a thorough search, there may be cases where you are not able to determine the copyright owner in order to request permission or the owner may not respond to your request.  In such cases, you will need to assess the risk involved in using the work without permission.  While it is possible that a documented search for the copyright owner would lessen the damage award if a court determines there was an infringement, there are no cases establishing a precedent for this issue.  In such cases, the University recommends adhering to the use allowed under the principles of fair use or not using the work at all.