Getting Permission not only applies to individuals wishing to utilize more than Fair Use portions of others copyrighted works, it often concerns librarians and educators, as well as students and researchers. Yet for everyone in general, the following compliance principle should apply. When uncertain, ask for permission in writing. A permission request reference should include the resource title, author, page range, standard number (ISBN or ISSN), and date. For digital media, other citation details may apply. It is a practical measure to insist for the permission reply in a permanent written format, including the name of the authorizing party. Do NOT rely on verbal, telephone, or mobile text messages. An email, telephone facsimile, or written letter with date and name of the permission-granting authorization should be saved in some type of copyright permission file.[i] To save time, the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) is the first place to try to get permission. If a document or digital work needed is not registered with the CCC, then contact the publisher or author directly. The U.S. Copyright Office offers a free online database at www.copyright.gov of copyright registrations (records since 1978) which may assist you in finding the author. Keyword searching for an author contact in a Web search engine is another option.

The pending Orphan Works Act may address a universal challenge in finding copyright owners after a realistic good faith search. This type of copyrighted work could be considered an Orphaned Work. The pending act may limit the copyright owners in demanding only reasonable reimbursement at a later date, so long as the work utilized has provided attribution.

In addition to not being able to find a copyright owner, other challenges may include no reply from the permission request, a cost-prohibitive copyright fee, or the copyright owner refusing permission. When this occurs, returning to a Fair Use analysis may guide you on what to do. Other options include replacing the work with an alternative work, using a smaller portion of the work, or conducting a risk-benefit analysis with legal counsel.[ii] Most individuals want to do the right thing. See Scholarly Publishing as well as Fair Use & Teach Act related to educators too. To learn more about copyrights and other intellectual properties, contact John Schlipp at NKU Steely Library’s IPAC.

[i] Richard Stim, Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off, (Berkeley, CA: Nolo, 2004). Stim’s book also provides ideas on how to write letters to contact an author/publisher.

[ii] Kenneth Crews, Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators, (Chicago: ALA, 2012), 143. 

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