If your use of a copyright-protected work is not covered by an existing licence or an exception in the Copyright Act, you have the option of seeking permission directly from the copyright owner. Usually, the creator of a work is the first copyright owner of that work. However, ownership of copyright may be transferred to another individual or entity (e.g., to a publisher).
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:
- Contact Us
If there is no online form, the next step 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 in-print and out-of-print books, journals, newspapers, magazines, movies, television shows, images, blogs and e-books. The search box is in the top-right corner of the CCC home page. 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.
If there is no online form and the materials is not part of the CCC’s repertoire, the next step is to contact the publisher in writing (i.e., e-mail) outlining how you would like to use the material. Information to include in your e-mail request may include:
- title of book (including the edition, if applicable);
- editor (if applicable);
- title of article, excerpt, image, figure, diagram, table, etc.;
- author of article (if different from book);
- page numbers of material requested;
- purpose of use (education, re-publication, display, etc.);
- nature of the use (e.g., posted on a password protected course website, posted on an open website, use in a thesis, etc.);
- course name and number (if applicable);
- length of time for which the work will be used (or specify if you would like ongoing permission);
- estimated enrolment number for the course (if applicable);
- your deadline (i.e., the date on which you plan to use the material).
Providing as much detail as possible about how you would like to use the work may make the process of obtaining permissions more quick and straightforward.
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 (e.g., for the duration of one school term, one calendar year, etc.);
- who is permitted access to the materials (e.g., 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 share their material for educational purposes 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 for educational purposes. The letter may be adapted to suit your specific request or use.