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Getting Permissions

Identifying the Copyright Owner | Fees | Licensing Agencies | Permission Letters | Sample Permission Letter

Identifying the Copyright Owner

Many publishers, authors, and artists have licensing agencies handle permissions for them, so a good place to start is with one of those agencies.

It may be necessary or desirable to contact the copyright owner directly; that is usually the person or organization named in the copyright notice.

If they do not own the copyright, they should be able to refer you to the proper resource. Copyrights may also be transferred to others or perhaps the copyright is now owned by heirs. The Copyright Office maintains an online, searchable database of materials registered since January 1978. All formats are available.

Stanford University maintains the Copyright Renewal Database. "This database makes searchable the copyright renewal records received by the US Copyright Office between 1950 and 1993 for books published in the US between 1923 and 1963." The database contains only book renewals. This time period is one of the most difficult in determining whether a copyrighted book passed into public domain by not having the copyright renewed.

See "Locating Copyright Holders" by Lloyd J. Jassin for some other suggestions.


Fees can range from the nominal to expensive.

Licensing Agencies

Many copyright owners have licensing agencies handle copyright permissions for them. They often are more expedient in replying. A number of these agencies are listed below. They will usually charge a fee for their services. Sometimes the copyright owner will give the same permission without a cost, but it may take longer.

Some Licensing Agencies:

Print Materials

Musical Works

These organizations usually provide "blanket" licenses for all the labels they cover. For individual song licenses you may want to contact the copyright holder(s) (often the record label) directly.

Visual Images (Artwork)

Motion Images

Dramatic Works


Permission Letters

The letter, on letterhead, should include

Remember that a non-response (silence) is not permission. If you receive oral permission, make sure you document the conversation and follow up with a letter.

Sample Permission Letter

Permissions Department
Your Publisher
Town, ST 12345

Month, Day, Year

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to ask your permission to copy the following for classroom use next quarter September 2001:

Author: John Smith
Book Title: The Life of John Smith, 3rd ed., 1982 (out of print)
Copyright: 1979, 1982
Pages: 23-35 of Chapter 10 "Life Abroad" (photocopy enclosed).
Number of Copies: 60 (3 sections of History 256, U. S. History to 1865)
Distribution: Supplied to students as free handout fall quarter 2001
Type of reprint: photocopy

Enclosed please find a self addressed, stamped envelope for your convenience in returning this signed permission.

If you do not solely control copyright of the requested material, I would appreciate any information you can provide about the copyright owners, including most recent addresses if available.



Bob Jones
College of DuPage
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

Please initial any statement that applies:

Author or company authorized signature _________________________

Date _______________________


Microsoft Word file Sample Letter.doc  (Help downloading)


Copyright Home Law Permissions Fair Use Public Domain C.O.D. Guidelines General Guidelines Teach Act Other Resources FAQ's News

The information on this site is intended to inform the faculty, staff and
students at the College of DuPage about copyright and to provide guidelines
for using and creating copyrighted material. The information should not
be considered legal advice.

For more information contact The Library

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