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First Step - Detective Work

If you have determined the work you want to use does not fall under the umbrella of fair use, you must obtain permission to use from the copyright owner. There are several ways you can go about obtaining permission. 

  • Look in the work in question for a copyright notice. This may give you directions for reaching the copyright owner. 
  • Research the author name through the internet, directories, or newspapers.  
  • Explore the records ar the US Copyright Office - Public Catalog.
  • Contact the publisher of the work. 

Next Step - Requesting

Once you have identified the copyright owner, you will need to formulate your request. Sometimes a simple email or phone call to the copyright owner may work. If you receive permission over the phone be sure to follow up with a written letter afterwards.  Be sure to save records of your permissions.  

You can also reach out to the copyright owner by writing a letter. Your letter should include 

  • Your name and contact information 
  • Identify the work you are seeking permission for. 
  • Why you want to use the work? Is your purpose personal, research, commercial, commentary, criticism, review, or for educational purpose?
  • When and for how long do you want to use the work for?

Click on the link to see a sample request letter. 

Have you reached a dead end?

There is no guarantee the copyright owner will respond to your request. It is at their discretion whether to reply to permission requests. So you may ask, now what can I do to legally use the work?

Other options: 

  • Fair use: Go back to the fair use step. Change the use of your work to make it fit within fair use guidelines. 
  • Find alternate material: Look to use works in the public domain