Seeking copyright permission

If the purpose and amount of your copying is not covered by fair dealing exceptions, university licences or open licences then you will need to seek permission.

Seeking permission from a rights holder is not always as difficult as you might think, but it does take time and a little effort.

Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Identify the rights holder and where to contact them

For published works the copyright statement on the reverse of the title page will state rights holders. Normally the author is the original rights holder.  However, the author may have signed some rights over to the publisher.  This is often the case with journal articles. The publisher of a book will also normally own copyright for the typographical layout. Illustrations and photographs can also have separate rights holders, which are often indicated underneath, or in a separate list.

Publishers usually have permissions departments you can contact and they will normally pass your request on to authors and contributors where necessary. If you need to contact an author directly you may find contact details on the internet, or through the organisations below.

For website content, check the terms of use for contact information. It is likely you will need to contact the webmaster for the site. Website images often have separate rights holders.

Multimedia materials, such as film and music, can be more complex as there are often multiple rights holders to contact.

Organisations that might help with locating rights holders:

2. Formally request permission

It is best to apply in writing; this can be by email, letter or even a web form on the publisher’s site.

In your request you should provide:

  • A full description of the material you want to use.
  • How you plan to use it.
    e.g. reproduce as a printout; scan and add to Moodle; modify or adapt the work.
  • The purpose of use and where you will be using it
    e.g. make it available to the public on a website; provide to students on Moodle for education purposes; include in an article you are publishing; include in your eThesis which will be openly available through an institutional repository.
  • Any background information or context.  
    e.g. If providing to students, give details of the course and whether it will be to UK, or to overseas campuses/distance learners. If intended for publication, where will it be published and when. If for research, provide brief details of the project and whether it is non-commercial.

Always be polite, precise, and assure them that you will fully reference and acknowledge the work.

3. Wait for a response

It can take time for a response – be patient. If you don’t hear anything then repeat your request after a reasonable amount of time e.g. 4-5 weeks.

4. Handling the response

When the rights holder responds they may grant permission freely, or with conditions, or for a fee. You need to consider this carefully and if appropriate negotiate. If they don’t respond, or you are not prepared to accept their conditions for use then you cannot copy the work.

Always ensure you get confirmation of permission in writing, a verbal agreement is not sufficient.

5. Keep all correspondence

You should keep copies of all correspondence and permissions granted  in the event of a challenge to your use.



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