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Determining Copyright Ownership

Sometimes it is unclear who owns the copyright of a work. This is particularly true to images such as photographs. The U.S. Copyright Office provides advice on searching for the copyright status of a work as well as who owns the copyright in  Circular 22 and Circular 23.

Harry Ransom Center's Guide to Obtaining Permission

AcqWeb's Directory of Publishers and Vendors (Last updated in 2004) - How to get Permission.

A Guide to Music Clearances and Permissions by Monica Corton

Obtaining Permission to Use a Work

Permission from copyright holders is often needed when creating course materials, research papers, and Web sites. You need to obtain permission when you use a work in a way that infringes on the exclusive rights granted to a copyright holder, i.e., reproducing part or all of a copyrighted work outside the boundaries of acceptable fair use. The following is a step-by-step guide to aid you in planning strategies to obtain permission to use copyrighted works for educational purposes.



  • Locating U.S. Copyright Holders. WATCH File (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders). The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin and the University of Reading.


  • Licensing and Rights Agencies. Center for Intellectual Property, University of Maryland University College (UMUC). Includes links to licensing and rights management agencies.


  • Locating Copyright Owners. Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin. List of organizations and web sites that assist the researcher to identify and locate copyright holders.


  • Collective Licensing Agencies. Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University. List of collective rights organizations that can grant permission online.


  • WATCH File (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders). The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin and the University of Reading offers a database that provides information about whom to contact for permission to publish copyprotected text and images.

Sample model permission letters from other universities:

These sample letters should be reviewed and modified to fit the specifics of your request. Your letter should provide complete and accurate information and include a self-addressed stamped envelope to expedite the permission process. For more information on what types of information to include in your permission letter, see UC Policy and Guidelines on the Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials for Teaching and Research, Appendix 2.

  • Sample permission letters. Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University. Includes overview and lists of sample model letters for different types of uses and material.
  • Sample written request for permission. Office of General Counsel, University of Texas System. A simple, general-purpose model permissions letter

Model Permission Form Letters from Columbia University.

Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center - Basics of Getting Permission.

Vassar College Guide to Asking for Permission.

List of Collective Licensing Agencies from Columbia Universtiy.

Citizen Media Guide to Obtaining Permission.

DLib Magazine Article on Obtaining Permission.

Books on Obtaining Copyright Permissions