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Copyright and Fair Use

Obtaining Permission

Permission to use copyrighted materials, when required, should be obtained prior to using those materials. It is best to obtain permission in writing (this includes email). The time it takes to obtain permission may vary and it is recommended to start the permissions procedure as soon as possible.

With published materials, it is usually possible to obtain permission through the publisher or a clearinghouse. Note that most publishers charge a fee for permissions.

If you are unsure of who holds the copyright for a work, you can try searching the Copyright Catalog from the Library of Congress or the Virtual Card Catalog from the  U.S. Copyright Office to find information for works that registered their copyright.

Works of unknown authorship, or works that have authors who cannot be tracked down, are considered orphan works. Orphan works are still copyrighted and using them involves a degree of risk.  Whenever possible, substitute orphan works with a similar work for which copyright permission can be obtained.

You can contact the library for assistance with obtaining permission.

Contacting Copyright Holders

There are two primary options for obtaining permission to use the work. You may contact the copyright holder directly or you may contact one of several copyright licensing organizations:


The copyright holder or its agent will likely require the following information in order to provide you with permission:

  • Title of the material
  • Creator/author of the material
  • Publisher of the material
  • Description of material
  • ISBN or ISSN, if applicable
  • Date of publication, if applicable
  • Purpose for which you wish to reproduce the item (research, commercial, educational, etc.)
  • How the material will be reproduced (e.g., photocopied, digitized)
  • How many copies will be made
  • Where the reproduced material will be used or will appear and for how long


Check with your department manager to determine if your department already has an established process for obtaining copyright permission.