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Copyright @ Dominican

Seeking Permission

Practical Steps in Seeking Permission

Check the copyright of the item in question to see what you are allowed to do with it. You may be allowed to reuse the in your work without asking permission through fair use. Alternatively, the material may be licensed under a Creative Commons license, allowing for re-use.

How Would I Check for Copyright & Permission?

For items on the web

  • There may be a copyright notice at the top or bottom of the main page.
  • If not, check for Terms and Conditions on the site (often found in the footer).

For items from a book or journal

  • Check the publisher’s site for their permissions department.
  • Sometimes this can be located under the “Contact Us” information.
  • If the journal or book was accessed electronically, you should check the license terms associated with gaining or purchasing access to the item.

For material from archives, galleries, museums or other similar location

  • Check their Terms and Conditions of Use.
  • These may be on your entry ticket otherwise contact the relevant organization.

Look for a Creative Commons notification

Remember, copyright does not have to be claimed, it is automatically owned by the rights holder. Although an item may be on the web without a copyright notice, this does not mean it is copyright free.


If permission is required, you will need to ask the rights holder’s permission. This may be the author or, more likely, the publisher. Be specific about exactly what material you want to include how it will be used. Keep copies of all the letters or emails you send and of all replies.

Seeking Copyright Permissions - Protocol

  1. Identify the rights holder
  2. Formally request permission to include item
  3. Keep records of all correspondence
  4. Repeat request after 6 weeks if you haven’t heard anything (twice)
  5. Leave plenty of time to get all permissions

Formal Permission

While gaining formal written permission may sound like a daunting task, in truth it is little more than ensuring you have documentary evidence that permission for inclusion has been granted. A verbal agreement is not sufficient and would be difficult to prove at a later date in court. If, for example, during a telephone conversation with a fellow researcher, your receive permission to reuse portions of a work, then it is good practice to follow up with a written formal request as soon as possible.

Written permission does not need to be in print, as a dated email is likely to be sufficiently attributable for your purposes.  Some rights holders, however, do not posses readily locatable email addresses, and in all likelihood, you will probably send a letter or two as well. Remember postal replies will take longer than email, and you will need to factor this into your permissions-seeking timetable.

Locating Rights Holders

In many cases the rights holders you will be approaching will be academic publishing houses, for whom the details will be easily locatable on the Internet; however, you may wish to include materials for which you need to seek out a specific individual or entity not easy to locate. While you may spend some time tracking them down yourself or decide to treat materials as an orphan work, agencies exist to aid in their location, such the Society of Authors website (See Appendix XX).

Previously Published Work

Using your own published scholarship in the classroom is well established academic practice.  You may need to consider carefully, however, your rights to re-use your own work if any rights have been gifted or otherwise assigned to a publisher.

Even if you assigned copyright to the publisher, the agreement may still allow you to use the material, so look for any academic exemption clause. If it does not expressly note this or you are unable to find the agreement, then you must directly approach the publisher for permission.  

Sample Permission Request

There is no absolute format that a permissions request must take, but a good practice example is shown below (Table 6). You have permission to adapt and to make use of this permission request template for the purposes of your own copyright clearances, as per the Creative Commons license for this whole booklet.

The key points that you should always highlight are:

  • The item for which you are seeking permission to reuse
  • Where you are seeking to reuse it (the classroom, Moodle)
  • A short background to your need (program requirements, scholastic reasoning)

Be specific and brief; a rights holder may have limited time to read extensive communications and in some cases may simply not feel they have the time to respond to a longer request.

Sample Permission Letter

Copyright Clearance Center Pay Per Use Licenses