Copyright Permissions

When do I need to get permission to use copyrighted material?

If a work is in the Public Domain, then permission for copying is not necessary. If a work is not in the public domain, then you must either seek permission for copying, or make a determination that the doctrine of Fair Use applies. If you decide the fair use doctrine cannot be invoked, or have any doubt about fair use, then seek permission from the copyright owner before engaging in any of the exclusive rights that belong to that owner.

Copyright law sets forth rights in both foreign unpublished and published works. Copyright was restored to many foreign works that were previously in the public domain in 1996 under the GATT and NAFTA international trade treaties.

Whom should I contact to obtain copyright permission or license to use materials?

Many published works contain a link from their own website to request permissions (link may say “Get rights,” “Permissions,” “Reprints,” or similar).  You may need to set up a (free) account with RightsLink to complete the request.  If permission is granted, copyright owners will often issue a license for the use and fees may apply.

Ulrich’s Periodical Directory can help with finding contact information for journals.  Use this sample permission request letter, if you are not provided a form to fill out.

If I don’t know or remember the source, do I need permission?

Yes, if you do not remember the source, you must make every effort to track it down. If you cannot do so, you cannot use the material. It is always a good idea to keep a record of the source of all your material.