In this article, you’ll learn how to contact a copyright owner to obtain permission to use their copyright-protected work. If you’re including images on your blog or using articles in a seminar, you may need to obtain copyright permission. Learn how to contact a copyright owner and what to ask for in your permissions request or letter.
How to Contact a Copyright Owner for Permission
Do you need permission to use an illustration or photograph on your website? Are you making multiple copies of an article for use in a seminar? Are you posting a video clip on your blog? These are just some of the many situations in which you may be seeking copyright permission directly from a copyright owner. (Check the copyright law in your country and determine whether your use requires permission or there’s an exception in the law for your particular use.)
How should you contact the copyright owner? It depends on the information you have about that copyright owner. For example, do you have the person’s telephone number? If so, you might call them, then follow-up with a written permission letter. Or you may prefer to email or mail by regular post a permissions request letter, including the details of your use of the content. However you obtain the copyright permission, it’s best to have a written document as evidence of the permission obtained.
There are no standard forms or exact wording to use in your copyright permissions request letter, though there are a number of things your request for permission should address. At a minimum, you should set out the following items:
- Who you are
- An accurate yet brief description of the copyright-protected material in question
- How you will use the content
- Where you will use the content (e.g., in a seminar, book or online)
- For how long you will use the content
Whether you offer payment for that use is your choice. (The rights holder, of course, may ask for payment for use of their work whether you offer payment or not.)
If you’re sending the permissions request by regular mail, include two copies of the copyright permissions letter and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope for the convenience of the rights holder. If the request is by email, ask the copyright owner to print the email, sign it and return it to you (scanning the signed copy is generally fine).
Sample Copyright Permissions Letter
Here is a simple letter for obtaining copyright permission. Use it as your starting board and adjust the wording so it best fits your situation.
Dear Content Owner:
We understand that you are the content holder of an article titled “The Rivers of the South” originally published in Waters Journal on pages 15-18 in the Spring 2017 issue.
XYZ Corporation would like to include the above-mentioned article in a research report undertaken by our employees, which will be distributed for free in print to the 1,000 members of the River Association in Virginia. The report will also be posted on our corporate Intranet. Proper acknowledgement will be included with the reproduction of the article.
If you agree to provide us with permission, please sign both copies of this permission letter and return one copy to us by fax or regular mail.
We appreciate your consideration of our permissions request.
Maddie Maron, Permissions Officer
By signing below, I warranty that I have the right to grant the permission requested herein, and that I hereby provide you with that permission.
Checklist for your Standard Copyright Permissions Letter
The above letter is one sample of a copyright permissions letter. By undertaking an Internet search, you’ll come across a variety of sample permission request letters. Review these letters and develop a standard one that can be used as is or amended as necessary for permissions in your enterprise.
The following list includes some points gathered from reviewing various permission request letters; you may want to consider using them in your standard one.
- Title of the source for the material (book, magazine, painting title, website, etc.)
- Creator/author of the item
- Description of the item at issue
- Page number(s) of the item (if appropriate)
- ISBN (in the case of a book) or ISSN (in the case of a magazine) or URL (if a website)
- Date of publication
- Purpose for which you wish to use the item (research, commercial, educational, etc.)
- How the item will be reproduced (photocopied, re-typed, scanned, etc.)
- Length of time the item will be used
- Expected publication date
- Target audience for use of the item
- Where the item will appear (on a website, in an online or print-based course, etc.)
- Acknowledgement, if any, to be given to the author and/or original publication
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Want to go deeper into this topic? You may like Legally Using Images in Slide Presentations
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