Use copyrighted material

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. In those cases, you will need to obtain permission from the copyright owner. For example, mounting 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.

Related Resources