Asking Permission

If you cannot justify your use of a copyrighted work under one of the exceptions in copyright law, you should ask the copyright holder for their permission to use the work.  First, you must determine who the copyright holder is.  This can usually be found on the reverse of the title page for books.  Audio recordings usually have this on the case insert.  Movies usually have the name of the copyright holder on the title screen or credits of the film.  

After determining the copyright holder, you must figure out how to contact them.  Many times the copyright holder will be a company.  Look up the company’s Web site and find their contact address.  Many times they will have a specific person or department at the company who deals with copyright permissions, so try to find that particular person or department’s contact information.  

If the copyright holder is an individual, it can be a little more difficult to locate an address.  Many times you can contact the publishing company to ask to be put in contact with the copyright holder.  You can also use the information at the US copyright office or the university libraries to help you determine how to contact the copyright holder.

Permission should always be asked for and granted in writing.  Many companies will not consider permission requests by email.  So a letter should be written with the specifics of your request.  You may use this form letter to request permission.  The details your letter needs to include can be found on the linked form.  

Many times a company or author will grant permission to use their copyrighted material for a fee.  Since they are the copyright holder, this is their right.  If you still want to use their material, pay the fee and you will be able to use the material within the confines of the specifics of your request. 


Permission request form letter: Download this letter to request a copyright holder's permission to use their work.

The Basics of Getting Permission: Specifics of asking for permission from Stanford University.

Copyright and Permissions: Specifics of asking permission from Wiley.