Did the creator give you permission to use the work?

Scholarship & Research Materials

Did the creator give you permission to use the work?

Perhaps the safest way to use copyrighted work is to request and receive permission from the copyright holder to use the work. When granted such permission, you may be able to use the work in its entirety or other ways that were not allowed through the Fair Use exemption.

In many cases the author-creator of a work is the copyright holders, making it easy to determine who to contact to use the work. In some cases, the publisher may be the rights holder instead. If you are uncertain which of the two the rights holder is, you may need to reach out to one and ask for that information. Finally, if neither the author-creator nor publisher can be tracked down – or if you have, but you’re approaching a deadline and don’t have an answer – Collective Rights Agencies can license works. Beware, however, in many cases a Collective Rights Agency is going to request payment in exchange for permission. 

When putting together a permission request, remember to supply the following information:

  • Who: Introduce yourself and give credentials that may help explain your use (for example, “I am a student at Western Washington University working on my capstone project”)
  • What: What is the copyrighted work you intend to use? Be specific, if you know the page numbers of a certain edition include them. Or if it is a particular photograph, include it in the request.
  • When: How long to you intend to use their work? Is this a project you intend to turn in at the end of the quarter? Or are you taking this show on the road, with the intention of several performances over a period of time?
  • Where: Where will their work be used? Are you creating a video for YouTube? Are you putting together a handout to go with your class presentation? How many people, if in a closed system, will have access to the final work?
  • How: How will the work be used? This is the time to explain if it is an educational use or if you plan to commercialize the final product. Consider all the ways you may wish to use the final product – if you only request to be able to use the music clip in a performance over a certain period of time that may not include permission for using the music in a video of the performance that is shared over the internet.
  • Why: Why did you decide to contact this person or organization? Are the author or potentially heir to the author? Are they the publisher?


Learn more - Check out the Copyright FAQs