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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
References & Resources
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images