When do I need to obtain copyright permissions?
You will encounter situations where your intended use of the work is not exempted by Fair Use.
This copyright analysis worksheet walks you through five questions to help you determine whether or not you need copyright clearance.
In those cases, you will need to obtain permission from the copyright owner. For example, displaying substantial text or graphical work created by another author onto a publicly accessible website would require you to first secure permissions from the author.
How do I obtain permissions?
To request copyright permissions for use, you must contact the copyright owner or the owner’s authorized agent. You should logically begin your search for the copyright owner by directly contacting the author or publisher. Reference librarians can be extremely helpful for finding names and addresses of publishing entities.
Keep in mind that copyright owners have wide discretion when responding to your request for permission, and may allow you to use the work on condition of paying a fee or deny your request altogether. For most common uses of materials for educational and research purposes, you often will find that copyright owners will be cooperative and will understand your needs.
The CSU Guidance on Intellectual Property provides a sample permissions request letter with instructions.
Resources for Obtaining Permissions
For Books, Journal or Magazine Articles, Other Literary Works
- Copyright Clearinghouse Center
- The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) acts as the agent on behalf of thousands of publishers and authors to grant permission.
- U.S. Copyright Office
- The U.S. Copyright Office provides detailed instruction on investigating the copyright of works. Two helpful resources include:
Permissions for Film Clips
The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation, Movie Licensing USA, and Swank Motion Pictures, Inc., grant public performance licensing rights to numerous non-theatrical entities including U.S. colleges and universities.
Permissions for Music
If you wish to perform a musical work, you should contact ASCAP, BMI or SESAC to secure a license for your use. If you wish to synchronize music with visual images or distribute a musical composition that has been created by someone else, contact the Harry Fox agency for licensing.
- ASCAP licenses the right to perform songs and musical works created and owned by the songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers who are ASCAP members.
- BMI licenses the right to perform songs and musical works created and owned by more than 375,000 songwriters, composers, and publishers with more than 6.5 million works.
- Harry Fox, LTD
- HFA licenses copyrighted musical compositions for use on CDs, records, tapes, and other digital configurations.
- SESAC represents songwriters and publishers and negotiates the rights for having their music performed in public. By securing a license from SESAC, for example, music users (i.e., television and radio stations, auditoriums, restaurants, hotels, theme parks, malls, etc.) can legally play any song in the SESAC repertory.
Author Rights and Reverting Copyright for Authored Materials
Most publishing agreements with traditional publishers transfer copyright to the publisher. This often means an author must seek permission to reuse her or his own material. If you are interested in learning more about the copyright, open access, and data archiving policies of publishers, journals, and funding agencies, you may consult the following:
- SHERPA/RoMEO is a tool that provides the standard copyright permissions and self-archiving policies of numerous publishers and journals.
- SHERPA/JULIET is a tool that provides the open access and data archiving policies for a number of funding agencies.
If you are the author of a book and are interested in learning more about rights reversion for your work, the Authors Alliance has published an online guide that addresses many of the issues and scenarios encountered by authors. For further questions, contact the Authors Alliance directly.