How to Get Permission Of Copyright Owners

by Brenna Davis
    Seeking permission to use someone's copyrighted work is the smart, sensible and legal thing to do.

    Seeking permission to use someone's copyrighted work is the smart, sensible and legal thing to do.

    Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    Copyright infringement, which can include something as seemingly innocuous as using a photo on a blog, carries stiff penalties, so you should seek permission from copyright owners before using their material. A copyright grants exclusive rights to "original works of authorship," which includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and some certain other categories of original works. This copyright enables copyright owners to reproduce, sell, perform, display and create derivative items from their own copyrighted material. However, copyright owners will often grant permission to others who wish to use their copyrighted materials, and they may offer licenses that prospective users can purchase through an agent or copyright licensing company.

    Step 1

    Locate the copyright owner. If there is a copyright notice on the work, the name published next to the copyright symbol is the person or entity who owns the copyright. If there is no copyright notice, conduct a copyright search at the U.S. Copyright Office's web page. You may search according to the item's title, keywords associated with the item and several other search terms. You can also request that the U.S. Copyright Office perform a search for you for a fee. Because copyright registration is not mandatory, it is possible that you may not locate the copyright records and that you'll have to find another way to locate the copyright owner. If the item is published online, try to contact the webmaster or website owner. If you see the item in a store or library, an employee may be able to tell you where the item was obtained. Locating the place of origin can help you locate the copyright owner.

    Step 2

    Draft a written request to the copyright owner seeking permission to use the item. Provide information about the specific intended use, the number of people you anticipate will see the item and whether you will be making a profit off of the use. Send the request.

    Step 3

    Negotiate copyright terms with the copyright owner or with the agent or entity who represents the owner. The owner may want you to make minor alterations to your anticipated use, may place limitations on how the item may be used or may seek further clarification. It is important to provide precise and exhaustive information, because using the item for a use other than that for which you are granted permission could constitute copyright infringement.

    Step 4

    Execute a licensing agreement. This is an agreement wherein you agree to pay a fee for use of the item. You must pay the fee to use the item, and failure to do so could be copyright infringement. If the owner does not wish to use a licensing agreement or does not want to be paid, a more informal agreement is acceptable. The agreement, however, should be in writing and should explicitly dictate the terms of use. Save the agreement for your records.

    Tips & Warnings

    • If you are only permitted to use the item for a set term, ensure that you stop using the item at the term's expiration.
    • Under U.S. copyright laws, copyright protection exists from the time an item is created in fixed form. This means that a copyright owner does not need to register their copyrights nor display a copyright symbol to assert their rights to the item.

    About the Author

    Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images