Permission from copyright holders is often needed
when creating course materials, research papers, and Web sites. You
need to obtain permission when you use a work in a way that
infringes on the exclusive rights granted to a copyright holder,
i.e., reproducing part or all of a copyrighted work outside the
boundaries of acceptable fair use. The following is a step-by-step
guide to aid you in planning strategies to obtain permission to use
copyrighted works for educational purposes.
Step 1: Determine if permission is needed for the work
you want to use.
a) Is the material protected under
copyright law? Remember some items (those in the public domain)
are not protected by copyright, and may be used without permission
from the copyright holder or payment of royalties. Knowing when a
work was published or if legal requirements were met is helpful in
determining if a work can be used without permission. See What
types of works and information make up the public domain and
of thumb for public domain works.
Step 2: Identify the copyright holder or
b) Does the use fall outside the limits of fair
use? After analyzing your specific situation by applying the four
factors of fair use and concluding that your use is not fair
use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Common
examples that require written permission from the copyright owner
include: copying for commercial use, unpublished works, some
specialized works such as illustrations, and consumable materials,
such as workbooks or standardized tests. See the guideline from
the 1996 Policy on the Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials for
Teaching and Research, Copying
Requiring Prior Written Permission from the Copyright Owner.
Assuming the work is copyright protected and your
use does not meet fair use criteria, the next step is to identify
the copyright owner.
For print publications, generally the
publisher is the owner of the copyrights and can grant permission
for your use. Many publishers also have online copyright
permission pages that can be used for this purpose. If the
publisher is not the copyright owner, they can probably direct you
to the copyright owner.
Step 3: Send written request for permission to use.
Remember to give yourself ample lead time, as the process for
obtaining permissions can take months. Decide if you are willing to
pay a licensing fee/royalty.
Depending on the work, permission may be
required from more than one source. For example, if you wish to
use a photo from a journal, the publisher may own the copyright
for the photo but if the subject of the photo is a well known
person, you may also need to obtain permission from the individual
in the photo and the photographer.
For more information on locating copyright
holders and services and agencies that grant permissions, see Guides
for locating copyright holders and Services
Step 4: If the copyright holder can't be located or is
unresponsive (or if you are unwilling to pay a license fee), be
prepared to use a limited amount that qualifies for fair use, or use
Your letter should include the exact
material to be used, including title, author, and page numbers.
Including a photocopy of the material is a good idea. Include the
number of copies you wish to make, and the exact nature of the
use, including how many times or how often the material will be
used, the form of distribution, and whether the material will be
sold. See the UC
Policy and Guidelines on the Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials
for Teaching and Research, Appendix 2, for more
For more information on writing letters of
permission, see (from the UCOP Office of Technology Transfer) How
do I use something legally? and Sample
model permission letters from other universities that can be
Step 5: Consult others as needed.
Contact your OTT
Campus Contact to locate the office on your campus that can
assist you in obtaining permission and in any contractual
negotiations, including payment of fees and royalties. Check your
Resources to find out where to go for more help.
Resources on Obtaining Permissions