Obtaining Permissions

Do you need permission for your use?

You will need to obtain permission if you determine that the material you want to use is still covered by copyright, and your use would not be considered a fair use, or fall within another statutory exception such as face-to-face teaching.  For more information on these topics, see the Public Domain, Fair Use, and Copyright for Instructors pages.

Finding the Copyright Holder of a Work

For published works still under copyright, the copyright owner will be listed next to the copyright notice near the title page in most cases. Although the copyright notice is no longer required, many publishers still use it.  In the unusual case where the copyright owner is unlisted and unknown and was published since 1978, try searching the US Copyright Registry. The Copyright Clearance Center may also help identify the copyright owner. Older materials may require more research into who created the work and when, in order to find the copyright owner. If the copyright owner cannot be located, the work has become "orphaned" and you may be unable to use the work. The problem of "orphan works" is currently being investigated by Congress, and several bills have been proposed, though none have yet become law.

Finding the copyright owner of non-print materials is much more difficult since most objects like photographs, sculptures, paintings, and buildings are  unlikely to have the copyright owner's name and address stamped on them.  For more information, see the Using Images page for some helpful databases. 

Obtaining Permission

Once you've found the copyright owner, you'll want to ask for permission to use the material. Certain entities, such as the Copyright Clearance Center, may also help you obtain permission to use a particular work.

If you determine that you need to obtain permission for reuse of copyrighted material, you should communicate complete and accurate information to the copyright owner. To expedite the process, the American Association of Publishers provides the following advice:

1. Request permission as soon as you know you might need the material. The earlier your request, the better. In the event that your request cannot be granted, you will need time to substitute other materials. Publishers need time to research the extent to which permission may be granted, since they do not always control the rights.


2. Include all of the following information in your request:

  • author's, editor's, translator's full name(s) title,
  • edition and volume number of book or journal
  • copyright date
  • ISBN for books, ISSN for magazines and journals
  • numbers of the exact pages
  • figures and illustrations if you are requesting a chapter or more, both exact chapter(s) and exact page numbers
  • whether material will be used alone or combined with other photocopied material
  • number of copies to be produced
  • name of college or university
  • course name and number
  • semester and year in which material will be used
  • instructor's full name
  • method of reproduction (photocopying, scanning, etc.)

3. Request permission whether or not works are in print.


4. Direct your request to the individual publisher's Permissions Department, or a copyright clearance service, not to the author. If publishers do not control the rights, they will inform you whom to contact. The directory "Literary Market Place", available in most libraries, annually updates publishers contact information.


5.  Provide your complete address and the name of a contact person, email, and telephone number in case there are any questions. 

For more information on obtaining permission to reuse copyrighted materials, please visit these websites:

Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office (an excellent site for complex and non-print permissions)

College of DuPage Library (has many addresses for non-print permissions)

University of Texas (another excellent site)


Sample Letters Requesting Permission to Reproduce Copyrighted Material


From Washburn University

From Columbia University