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Obtaining permissions, step by step

1. Determine if permission is needed for the work you want to use.

After analyzing your specific situation and determining that the material you want to copy is not in the public domain, is not already licensed by the UC Libraries, and your use does not fall under one of copyright's exceptions, like fair use or classroom display, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

2. Identify the copyright holder or agent.

For many publications, the publisher is the owner of the copyright and can grant permission for your use. Some publishers have online copyright permission pages that simplify the process. If the publisher is not the copyright owner, a publisher representative can often direct you to the copyright owner. For other works, like photographs or films, the copyright owners sometimes use licensing agents that will grant permission for your use, typically for a fee.

Depending on the work, permission may be required from more than one source. For example, if you wish to use a journal article with photographs, the photos’ copyrights may be owned by the photographer and not the article’s author.

3. Send a request for permission to use the material.

Your written request should include the exact material to be used, including title, author, and page numbers. Including a photocopy or link to the material is a good idea. Include the number of copies you wish to make, and the exact nature of the use, including how many times or how often the material will be copied, the form of distribution, and whether the material will be sold.

For more information on writing letters of permission, see the box on the left for examples of model permission letters from other universities that can be modified to fit your needs.

If you're having trouble…

If the copyright holder can't be located or is unresponsive (or if you are unwilling to pay a license fee), you should consider using alternative materials or limiting the amount so that your use qualifies as fair use.

Contact a campus librarian for more assistance. There may be an office on your campus that can help you to obtain permission and in any contractual negotiations, including negotiating the payment of fees and royalties. Check your Campus Resources to find out where to go for more help.

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