Permission is not always required to use a work, depending on the work you choose or on your intended use. However, if you've determined that the work is not in the public domain or your use is not considered fair use, then you may need to secure permission. If you are just beginning the process, you will need to carefully consider the steps for securing permission, as detailed in the tabbed steps above.
This section derives content from "Asking for Permission" by Columbia University with attribution to Dr. Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University) and is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
Once you have identified the owner or owners, contact them to request permission.
Publishers or distributors (if it's a film) often have websites that prescribe a method for contacting the copyright owner, so search the website for a permissions department or contact person. Feel free to call the person or publishing house to confirm the copyright ownership.
If the copyright owner is an individual, you will need to do the usual Internet and telephone searches to find the person. Be ready to introduce yourself and to explain carefully what you are seeking.
Do not send permissions letters to all possible rights holders simultaneously. Taking the time to find the person who most likely holds the copyright will better yield success. If you do not have much information about who actually owns the copyright, be honest with your contacts, and they may be able to help you find the right person.
A “nonexclusive” permission may be granted by telephone or handshake, but an “exclusive” permission must be in writing and signed by the copyright owner (email is also acceptable).
Some copyright owners furnish their own permission form that may be downloaded from a website. If the copyright owner does not provide a permission agreement form, you may use one of the model letters listed in this guide (see tab - Model Permission Letters). Consider these important pointers when drafting your own permission letter.
A most effective letter will include detailed information concerning your request for permission to use the work. Be sure to include the following pertinent information:
Sometimes you need to be patient and persistent, and sometimes the owner responds quickly. In any event, the reply can take any number of possibilities:
1. Keep a copy of everything for yourself. If you successfully obtain permission, keep a copy of all correspondence and forms. Also, keep a detailed record of your quest to identify and locate the copyright owner. Why keep these records? In the unlikely event that your use of the work is ever challenged, you will need to demonstrate your good efforts. That challenge could arise far in the future, so keep a permanent file of the records. Moreover, you might need to contact that same copyright owner again for a later use of the work, and your notes from the past will make the task easier.
2. Email a copy of your successful permission letter (fully completed and signed by the copyright holder) to the copyright officer at Centralia College. This is a requirement! Help us document the legal usage of copyrighted information. This protects the college and it protects you!
One of the most vexing problems in copyright law is the problem of "orphan works". These are those great many works where it is difficult or impossible to determine who owns the copyright. The copyright term in the US is very long and copyrights outlive their creators by 70 years. Works by corporate or anonymous authors are covered by copyright for up to 120 years. That is a lot of time for the details of ownership to get lost in the shuffle.
When dealing with an "orphan work", you must basically decide to either take the risk that a copyright holder might later identify themselves or forgo using the work. It is hard to say how risky a given use might be. If a copyright holder came forward they might simply insist that you stop using the work or they may attempt to recover damages.