Common practice is to seek permission for repeated fair use of a copyrighted work, especially if the use is over several years, but it is NOT stipulated by the copyright law. If you are repeatedly using a work or your use does not fall under fair use, you should contact the copyright holder and explain how you plan on using the work. Many individual authors and some scholarly societies will allow you to make copies, post digital copies on an internal Web site, or even repeatedly use the material for free.
There are two major ways to contact a copyright holder for written permission:
- Contact the copyright holder yourself. Most scholarly authors do not own the copyright to their own materials, requiring you to contact their publisher. Some publishers have no easy system for seeking permission and some refuse almost all requests, but receiving permissions can save you licensing money. To find the publisher, look at the back of the title page in a book or journal. When contacting them, include the information listed below.
- Use a licensing agency such as the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) to contact the publisher for you. This makes contacting multiple publishers and paying royalty fees easier; however, there are usually added fees for using the service, and you may be giving up your fair use rights where you might have legally used the material for free. For more information on the Copyright Clearance Center, please see their Frequently Asked Questions.
Remember your first use of an item meets the fair use criteria, you do not need to seek permission or pay a fee! Only repeated uses over several years or uses not considered "fair use" need to involve the copyright owner. Again, seeking permission for repeated fair use of copyrighted materials is NOT stipulated by the U.S. Copyright Law.
Information to Include When Contacting Publishers
When contacting a publisher for written permission to use copyrighted material, be sure to include the following information:
- Author name
- Title, edition and volume number of book or journal
- Numbers of exact pages and illustrations
- Publication year
- Publisher name
- ISBN number for books, ISSN number for journals
- University name
- Course name and number
- Semester and year in which material will be used
- Number of photocopies to be reproduced
- How material will be reproduced (i.e., photocopying, scanning)
- Instructor name
- Contact information