When you need permission

As a student or researcher, Copyright Owner's Permission may be required in a number of situations, including the following:

  • you want to copy more than is allowed under fair dealing
  • you want to use unpublished material such as letters, emails, photographs
  • you want to use material beyond the scope of your role as student. For example if you want to publish your thesis, or enter your assignment in a competition, any copyright material which was included under fair dealing for research and study for your studies, would require permission from the copyright owner for this new use
  • you want to present a play in a public setting, such as to parents and friends. 

Obtaining permission to copy a work is a matter of negotiation with the copyright owner, who is under no legal obligation to allow the copying. They may refuse permission, or grant permission subject to conditions. These conditions often require a specified acknowledgment of the source of the work and may include payment of a fee.

Obtaining permission

Correspondence with the copyright owner, whether by email or letter, should cover the following and be kept on file:

  • Your name and contact details.
  • The copyright owner/s name and contact details.
  • Detail of the material to be copied or communicated, such as which part or parts of the work you want to copy, page numbers, chapter titles and any artworks included.
  • An outline of how the material is to be used and how many copies will be made.
  • Specify how long the permission lasts: whether it's a one-off copy or if the material will continue to be copied and used over a set period of time.
  • If changes are made to the material, explain the changes and why those changes are important to you.
  • Identify how the copyright owner or the work will be acknowledged.

Identifying the copyright owner

While the author/first creator of a work may be the copyright owner, copyright is sometimes owned by an employer, or may have been assigned to publishers. Some works may contain multiple copyrights. For example a music CD may have copyright in the lyrics, copyright in the musical works, the arrangement of the works, the performance of the works, as well as copyright in the actual sound recording. If you request permission from one owner, do not assume that this will mean all concerned parties have authorised the use. If you are in doubt, expressly ask if there is anyone else from whom permission should be sought.

Contacting the copyright owner

Copyright owners can be difficult to trace or may simply not respond, so allow plenty of time to make contact, and be prepared to use an alternative strategy, such as only referring to the work, or using a different resource, if contact cannot be made. Publishers and other organisations which manage copyright often have a website to facilitate permission requests. Alternatively, collecting societies may have information about copyright owners and how you can ask for permission, or may even be able to license use of the material:

Orphaned works

Orphaned work refers to material which is still under copyright but whose copyright owners are difficult to trace, e.g. where the author has died, or a company has ceased to operate. Locating the owner of the orphaned work and obtaining permission to use the material, in these circumstances, can prove to be difficult or impossible.

Other considerations

Make sure you comply with any conditions the copyright owner has placed on the permission.

It is advisable to note 'Reproduced with permission' (or similar) with the material's citation, to save further investigation.