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Requesting Permission

Requesting permission can be straight forward or it can be complex.  The basic steps for requesting permission are:

  1. Identify the copyright holder -- make sure the material is still protected by copyright.  Identifying the copyright holder can be the easiest or most challenging issue.  It could be the publisher;  look for a copyright notice ("© 2010 New University Press" or "copyright by C. Sowder, 2011."), but remember notice is not a requirement for copyright protection.  In addition, many published works are "orphan works", meaning it is impossible at this time to determine who the copyright holder may be. Columbia University and the University of Texas at Austin both provide helpful resources:
  2. Contact the copyright holder and request permission.
    • Identify the copyrighted work.
    • Identify what part of the copyrighted work you will use.
    • Describe -- very specifically -- all the ways you will use the copyrighted content (in an article, in a book, in an online classroom, on a web page, etc.), including if it will be used in more than one way.
    • Describe the audience who will see the copyrighted content in your work.
    • Model permission documents can be found at:
  3. Keep all documentation associated with your attempts to obtain permission, including the documentation that demonstrates the permission was given.
  4. If permission is denied then:
    • Reconsider a fair use analysis; can the amount or type of copyrighted material be adjusted in order to make a fair use argument?
    • Look for comparable alternative content -- content with a Creative Commons license or content that has entered the public domain or content that is available through a license.
    • Alter your planned use for the copyrighted material.
    • Consider the risk versus the benefits of using the copyrighted material without getting permission -- especially if the potentially copyrighted material is associated with an orphan work.  Send a message to for help making this determination.

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