This page provides resources for contacting a rights-holder to copy, share, remix, or adapt an in-copyright work in your own teaching and scholarship.
Seeking permission from a rights-holder may reduce the risks associated with a project if it is unclear if the proposed reproduction or public distribution you would like to make of an in-copyright work is permitted under U.S. copyright law. Requesting permission is not necessary if the work you would like to borrow from is in the public domain, not subject to copyright-protection in the first instance, if an existing Library license allows for your use, or if there is an exception under copyright law that clearly supports your intended use, for example, the use is a fair use.
Where the associated rights are unclear or the intended distribution of a work is broad (for example, where the end product is designed to be shared without restriction online), seeking permission for your use may be the lowest cost avoider. If you seek permission and are affirmatively denied by the rights-holder, you may find the need to regroup or re-imagine your project to avoid the attendant risks or to make it more likely that your intended use of the material would qualify as a fair use. If you proceed with your intended project without change after permission is affirmatively denied, it is more likely your intended use will turn into a dispute with the rights-holder.
Step 2 - contact the copyright owner, identify yourself and the proposed use you would like to make of their work, and request permission for your intended use.
The more details you provide in your request, the more likely it is that you will receive a timely response. For example, it is clearer to say " My name is X. I teach at Y Institution. I am writing to request permission to reproduce the material in your book [insert full book citation], on pages 13-24 on my course Canvas page for the Fall 2020 semester. The material will be removed after the course is completed, and students will not be able to access it afterwards. Students will be expected to use the material as the basis for an in-class presentation that will be recorded but not distributed outside of the students and instructors of the course. Do I have your permission to proceed with this intended use? " as opposed to "I would like to use your book in my class".
Budget yourself plenty of time to correspond with the rights-holder and secure the rights that you need. Unless you are contacting a major-rights holder, it is unlikely that you will receive an instantaneous response.
Treat permissions like citations, and keep track of them as you go.
Step 3 - document the response of the rights holder, preserve correspondence (this includes any email / letter exchanges, permissions forms or research you have conducted to identify the rights holder.
Calendar the day you initially reached out, and set yourself reminders to follow up if you do not receive a response.
Sometimes the answer from the rights-holder will be "no". In such cases you should carefully consider your alternatives, and how you might limit your request or adjust your proposed use to avoid a copyright conflict.
The U.S. copyright doctrine of "fair use” allows individuals to incorporate, remix, adapt limited amounts of an copy in-copyright work in certain circumstances without seeking the permission of the original copyright holder.
There are four statutory factors to consider if you are evaluating whether or not your use is a "fair use" and would qualify for this exception:
"(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."
This guide is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice.