If you want to use copyrighted material in your work then you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holder.
This can be a time-consuming task, so make sure you allow yourself enough time or have an alternative in mind.
Check permissions statements
Some copyright owners will provide permissions statements that indicate how their material can be used.
If you are using material from a journal article or a book, check the copyright statement (usually found at the front or rear of the publication) or look on the publisher’s website.
For material found on the internet, look for a copyright statement or credit line on the website where you found it. All material on the web is copyrighted, whether or not there is a copyright statement. If you are not sure, don’t use the material.
Identify the copyright owner
The copyright owner is usually clearly indicated, particularly in written works.
A copyright owner should usually have some sort of affiliation information. This might be the department where the research was carried out, the author’s university or other place of work, contact details for a designated member of staff, or a website.
If the work is several years old, then you might also want to trace more recent work that the owner has created, which may have an up-to-date address.
A very general bibliographic tool such as Web of Science can also be useful.
If the creator has an unusual name, try a search on the internet.
If a publisher owns the copyright but is no longer in business, check the publications serial number (found in the front or rear of the book) and consult the Publisher’s International ISBN Directory.
Other databases you may find useful are the:
- Society of Authors (UK)
- WATCH (Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders): a database of known UK and US copyright holders.
- Design and Artists Copyright Society: the society may represent an artist or photographer.
Contact the copyright owner
Once you know who the copyright owner is, you will need to contact them to request permission. The best way to do this is by email or a written request.
If copyright is held by the publisher you should check their website for an online permissions form or designated permissions contact.
Make sure you include the following information:
- what you plan to use (give as full a reference as possible)
- how you plan to use it (eg lecture handouts, website, journal)
- how long it will be needed
- how it will be distributed
- your contact details
Be advised that there may be a fee, and you may have to obtain separate permissions for each category of use (eg print and web).
Lack of response to your enquiry must not be taken as permission for your use of the material. Wait until you hear from the copyright owner before doing anything.