It’s worth remembering that the creator of the material is not necessarily the copyright owner. The copyright may have been transferred to another party, or could be owned by an employer, a person who commissioned the work, or could be owned by several people.
If you require permission from the copyright owner, first check if there is a copyright statement which establishes the copyright ownership. For example, on a book, this statement is likely to be located on the back of the title page. If you are unable to find this information and you wish to copy material from a published book or journal then it is advised that you initially contact the publisher or journal editor as they should be able to provide advice about the copyright ownership.
For other types of material you may need to carry out research to locate the owner. The following methods could be adopted:
- conduct an online search
- establish contact with the creator via a publisher, agent or representative
- contact a family member
- contact the appropriate society e.g. Designs and Artists Copyright Society
- search on the Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders files
It might be useful to use this sample letter to make your request.
If permission has been granted then keep a printed copy in a safe place.
If the copyright owner cannot be located keep any correspondence showing that you have attempted to contact the copyright owner. If the owner / author cannot be traced then a risk assessment will have to be undertaken. Please note that using material without copyright permission could result in you being sued or requested to pay a fee.
If in doubt please refer to the Copyright Advisor for specific advice.
For more information please contact the University Copyright Advisor:
Updated 19 May 2015 by Alison Ashmore.
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