How do I get Copyright Permission?

Vicki Watson
Vicki Watson
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Copyright laws exist to protect the owner’s work from usage without consent and prevent other people from gaining financially from his or her creation. Numerous reasons exist why you might want to obtain copyright permission. To gain permission to use someone’s copyright-protected work, you must ask for his or her approval. Some uses of other people’s work falls under the “fair use” doctrine, which legally allows use a very small part of the work in question without the creator’s permission. This exception, where it exists, can be hard to define legally, so obtaining copyright permission from the owner protects you from legal risks.

If you know who the owner of the copyright is and have his or her contact information, the timeliest way to get his or her copyright permission is to contact the person directly. If you do not know where the person or business is or how to make contact, for a fee, copyright offices will perform a search and provide you with the information on record. Another method for locating the copyright holder is to turn to the Internet for resources, because many websites exist with links to guide you in your search. For example, if you are trying to find the author of an article to request permission, a copyright guidance website might provide a list of links to help you, such as author registries.

In certain cases, you might be able to avoid the need for seeking copyright permission from the author when the item you would like to use falls under the “fair use” doctrine. Fair use allows limited use of small portions of work without the borrower requiring permission. This regulation was designed to allow very small parts of work to be used, such quotes from a written work. You should be careful when attempting to utilize this loophole, because it does not specify exactly how much of the work can be used. The ambiguity in the law mans that, when you are in doubt, it is always safest to pursue permission in order to avoid copyright infringement.

Contacting the creator of the work with courteous, written correspondence that specifically outlines what parts of the work you would like to use and how it will get used often provides the desired results. Making the process as convenient as possible for the creator of the work might increase your chances of success. For example, you can include a self-addressed, postage-paid return envelope. Additionally, form letters are available on the Internet that combine a request with a return form that the copyright holder can simply sign and return. Ultimately, copyright holders have the right to grant or deny permission to those requesting permission to use their work.

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