Introduction

If your use of a copyright-protected work is not covered by an existing licence or an educational exception in the Copyright Act, you have the option of seeking permission directly from the copyright owner. The creator of a work is generally the initial copyright owner of that work. However, copyright ownership can be transferred to another individual or entity (for example, to a publisher).

NOTE: University of Saskatchewan (USask) authors do not always need to ask for permission, or pay an extra fee, to re-use a published figure or image in their own publications. The University Library, through our consortial partners (Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) and Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL)), has negotiated this right for USask authors in many of our licenses for journal subscriptions. For more details, please see this Re-Using Figures webpage.

Where to start

When seeking permission to use a published work, the best place to start is on the publisher’s website. Many publishers have an online form that you can fill out to request permission. The form will most likely appear on one of the following pages on their site:

  • Terms of use
  • Notices
  • Copyright
  • Permissions
  • Contact us (some publishers will have a dedicated contact person or email address for copyright permission requests)
To seek permission for an unpublished work, start by contacting the author or creator (or their estate if they are deceased). For some archival materials, you may be able to acquire certain permissions from the archive that holds the materials.

Copyright Clearance Center

Another option is to search for the work on the Copyright Clearance Center’s (CCC) website. The CCC is an American copyright collective that can provide licences for some works, primarily written material and images from scholarly publications. For assistance using the CCC website to request copyright permission, please contact the copyright coordinator.

The permission process can be fairly long (six to eight weeks, on average), so it is a good idea to send your request well before the material is needed.

How to write a permission request

If there is no online form and the material is not part of the CCC’s repertoire, you can contact the rightsholder in writing (for example, e-mail) outlining how you would like to use the material. Providing clear details in your permission request about how you would like to use the material may make the process of obtaining permissions more quick and straightforward. We recommend including the following information in your request:

  • your name and institutional affiliation (if applicable);
  • a full citation for the material that you are requesting permission to use or reproduce;
  • purpose of use (education, re-publication, display, etc.);
  • if re-publishing the requested material, details about your new work in which the requested material would be used;
  • distribution details (for example, limited private distribution or wide distribution, whether material will be distributed for free or sold, estimated number of copies to be distributed, etc.)
  • length of time for which the work will be used (or specify if you would like ongoing permission); and
  • whether you intend to make any changes to the requested material.

Once the publisher has received your information, they will usually reply in writing with a proposed licence agreement. The agreement should include the following information:

  • cost of use (this can range from being free to hundreds of dollars, depending on the type and quantity of the material requested, as well as the desired number of copies to be made);
  • type of payment being proposed (one-time payment, pay-per-use, no charge, etc.);
  • time limitation on use (for example, for the duration of one school term, one calendar year, etc.);
  • who is permitted access to the materials (for example, only students enrolled in one particular course);
  • how the copyright owner should be credited or cited when the material is posted/distributed.

Permission may come in the form of a letter or e-mail from the publisher and/or copyright owner or it may be in the form of a licence agreement. It is very important to keep a copy, for your records, of the written permission or licence that you receive in case you are required to provide proof of the permission in the future.

If the copyright owner has proposed a licence that will be useful to you and if you are willing to pay the fee that is requested, then you will be able to use the material in the manner stipulated by the terms of the licence agreement.

Note: While some publishers are willing to grant permission for scholarly uses free of charge, some are not. Additionally, copyright owners are under no obligation to provide you with permission to use their material.

Permission request template

This sample permission request letter can be used to contact a copyright owner for permission to use their work. It is tailored for requesting permission to distribute material to students enrolled in a USask course for educational purposes, but can be adapted to suit your specific request or use.

Getting help

If you have any questions or concerns about copyright, please let us know!

Kate Langrell
Copyright Coordinator
122.13 Murray Library

Note: The information obtained from or through this site does not constitute legal advice.

 

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