Sometimes, when seeking to use copyrighted material it is either prudent or necessary ask permission. Below are some examples of situations that almost always exceed fair use and require permission:
Do I really need permission? Generally speaking, if a work was produced or published in the last few decades it is likely that it is still under copyright protection. However, some works fall into public domain, and therefore do not have copyright protection. Works in the public domain generally fall into one of four categories:
If this is starting to sound complicated, it is. Fortunately, there are some great tools that make determining the status of a copyright much simpler:
Copyright Clearance Center is a global rights broker for copyright permissions for items such as in- and out-of-print books, journals, newspapers, magazines, movies, television shows, images, blogs and ebooks - CCC makes it easy for businesses and academic institutions to purchase rights to use copyright-protected materials while compensating publishers and content creators for their works. Before you put forth the effort to request permission directly from the rightsholder check their database to determine if rights to the content is handled by CCC.
Identifying the Rightsholder: When dealing with published works the publisher will almost always hold the reproduction and distribution rights. In most published works there will be a copyright notice that will tell you exactly who the rightsholder is, and in some cases include contact information.
Contacting the Rightsholder: Some publishers print contact information regarding reprint permissions in their material, but many publishers now have permissions pages on their websites that include the most current contact information, and in some cases, forms that can be filled out and submitted online. Some publishers will refer you back to the Copyright Clearance Center as the agent that handles permissions for their company. If a request must be sent by snail mail it should be addressed to the to the permissions department of the publisher or rightsholder in question, and include a self-addressed return envelope. Whether by email, online form, or letter, permissions requests should always be made in writing, and permissions should always be given in writing. If it is not in writing it didn't happen.
Crafting a Request: When requesting use of copyrighted material, you should communicate complete and accurate information to the rightsholder. The information communicated should include, at minimum, the following:
Request Letter Template: Use the Copyright Permission Request Letter Template as a starting point to craft a letter or email to the rightsholder.
Allow Time for Processing: The process of granting permission requires time for the publisher to check the status of the copyright and to evaluate the nature of the request. It is advisable, therefore, to allow enough lead time to obtain permission before the materials are needed. In some instances, the publisher may assess a fee for the permission.