Library:Copyright Resources/draft/Seeking Permission (new)

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Seeking Permission

When using copyrighted material, if your use of the material is permitted neither by a licence nor by one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, then you will need to request permission from the copyright owner. This guide covers the different ways of obtaining permission, the key pieces of information that one should include in permission requests, and what to do in cases where one is unable to obtain permission.

How to Obtain Permission

Seeking permission is a fairly straightforward process, but obtaining responses from copyright owners can take a long time, and so you are strongly encouraged to send out your permission requests as early as possible.

The first step in the process is to identify the copyright owner. Usually you will be able to identify the owner somewhere on the work by looking for the copyright symbol ©, which should have the copyright owner’s name next to it. You’ll often find this at the beginning of a book, at the side of a photograph or at the bottom of a web page.

Third-party copyrighted materials

If you want to use an image that forms part of a larger work, then be especially careful to examine the image itself, as it may have been published with the permission of a separate copyright owner. If a photographer has granted permission for an image to be published in a book, for instance, then you must contact the photographer to request permission to use the image.

To check if an image belongs to a third party, examine the image caption to see if it includes the words “with permission,” the copyright © symbol, or any attribution to a party other than the author or creator of the work as a whole. If there is no information in the image caption, it may also be helpful to check footnotes, endnotes, and lists of figures.

Permission from individuals

If the copyright owner is an individual, then the next step is simply to email or write to him/her, explaining how and why you want to use the work and requesting permission. The permission should be in writing; an email message will suffice. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of who gave the permission, what was permitted, the date, and how to contact the person who gave the permission .

Locating a copyright owner’s contact information is not always easy, but there are some strategies that can help. If the material you wish to use is on a website, look for a link that says “About Us” or “Contact Us.” If all you have is an individual’s name and academic affiliation, then try searching the website of the relevant college or university. If all you can find is a phone number, then try calling to ask for an email or mailing address.

For more information about what information to include in your permission requests, see the next section of this guide.

Permission from commercial publishers

If the copyright owner is a commercial publisher, the fastest course of action is often to search for the work in question at the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). The CCC handles permissions for a large number of publishers, and permission can often be obtained through the CCC website without delay, so it is worth checking to see if they process permissions for the work you wish to use.

If you cannot obtain permission through the CCC, then the next step is to check the publisher’s website. Many publishers will require that you submit your request directly to their permissions department, while others will require that you use an online form.

When you arrive at the website, look for a link that says “Rights and Permissions,” “Reprints,” “Copyright Office,” or something similar, and then read through the available information to determine the correct method for requesting permission.

If you can’t locate a point of contact for seeking permission, then start with the general point of contact and ask to be directed to the appropriate office.

Permission from journals

If the copyright owner is an academic journal (or an academic association/society that publishes a journal), then you may be able to obtain permission through the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), as discussed above. If permission is not available through the CCC, then you should check the journal’s website, which may provide one or more of the following:

  • Advance permission for specific uses (for example, The Journal of Biological Chemistry provides advance permission for noncommercial use)
  • Advance permission to journal authors who have signed over copyright
  • Information on how to request permission
  • Information on uses that are specifically prohibited

If you can’t locate any information about copyright and permissions on the journal’s website, then visit the website of the company or organization that publishes the journal.

If advance permission for your intended use is given on a website, then remember to print a copy of the web page that states this and keep it for your records.

Proof of permission

You should keep copies of all letters and forms granting you permission to use copyrighted material. These copies are for your own records. As mentioned above, email permissions are perfectly acceptable.

For more information about seeking permission, see UBC Copyright Basics FAQ 1.11.

What to Include in Permission Requests

Include the following information in your permission requests.

Introduce yourself clearly

Tell the copyright owner that you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of British Columbia.

Identify the work you are seeking permission to use

Provide a full citation for the work you wish to use, including standard reference information such as page numbers and figure/illustration numbers, if applicable. For materials that are publicly available online, include a URL for the webpage and a brief description of the location of the material on the page.

Explain how you intend to use the work

Provide a brief description of how you intend to use the work, including relevant details about the context and purpose. For example, if you are an instructor seeking permission to use material for a course, you should mention:

  • the course number and name
  • the term in which the course will be offered
  • the maximum enrollment size
  • details concerning the method of distribution (e.g., print handouts, electronic copies in a learning management system, etc.).

Ask for specific action

Request that the copyright owner notify you of their decision. If you have deadlines or other time constraints, request a reply by a given date.

Keep copies

Keep copies of request letters and all correspondence, including emails.

Unable to Get Permission?

If the copyright owner does not respond to your first permission request, then you may wish to send a follow-up request after a reasonable period of time. As a general guideline, a reasonable period of time would be two weeks, after which you may wish to start sending weekly reminders.

Many commercial publishers can take weeks to respond to permission requests, so please take this into account while awaiting a response.

If the copyright owner is an individual, then the response time can be highly variable: some individuals will respond promptly, while others may not respond at all.

If, after sending multiple requests and allowing a reasonable period of time, you still haven’t received a response, please feel free to contact for further assistance.