Identifying the Copyright Owner
Many publishers, authors, and artists have licensing agencies handle permissions for them, so a good place to start is with one of those agencies.
It may be necessary or desirable to contact the copyright owner directly; that is usually the person or organization named in the copyright notice.
If they do not own the copyright, they should be able to refer you to the proper resource. Copyrights may also be transferred to others or perhaps the copyright is now owned by heirs. The Copyright Office maintains an online, searchable database of materials registered since January 1978. All formats are available.
Stanford University maintains the Copyright Renewal Database. "This database makes searchable the copyright renewal records received by the US Copyright Office between 1950 and 1993 for books published in the US between 1923 and 1963." The database contains only book renewals. This time period is one of the most difficult in determining whether a copyrighted book passed into public domain by not having the copyright renewed.
See "Locating Copyright Holders" by Lloyd J. Jassin for some other suggestions.
Fees can range from the nominal to expensive.
Many copyright owners have licensing agencies handle copyright permissions for them. They often are more expedient in replying. A number of these agencies are listed below. They will usually charge a fee for their services. Sometimes the copyright owner will give the same permission without a cost, but it may take longer.
Some Licensing Agencies:
Access: The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency
The Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS)
Administers rights in Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The Authors' Registry
Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI)
Primarily church music, but also videos and articles.
Copyright Clearance Center (CCC)
For parts of books or journal articles this would be the first place to contact.
Firms Out of Business (FOB)
An online database containing the names and addresses of copyright holders or contact persons for out-of-business printing and publishing firms, magazines, literary agencies and similar organizations that have archives housed in libraries and archives in North America and the United Kingdom.
Instant licensing of digital content.
National Writers Union
For licensing cartoons and other syndicated items
Universal Press Syndicate
Licenses cartoons and other syndicated content
(WATCH) Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders
A resource of The University of Texas at Austin (US) and The University of Reading (UK) that contains the names and addresses of copyright holders or contact persons for authors and artists.
These organizations usually provide "blanket" licenses for all the labels they cover. For individual song licenses you may want to contact the copyright holder(s) (often the record label) directly.
American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)
Licenses performance rights.
Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI)
Licenses performance rights.
Represents over 300,000 musicians and 4.5 million works
The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA)
Established by the National Music Publishers' Association, Inc. Supplies mechanical licensing that allow you to reproduce and distribute copyrighted music.
Music Publisher's Association
Does a cross search of ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
Recording Industry Association of America
Represents major record producers
Licenses performance rights.
Represents over 850 recording companies. Collects royalties for copyright holders.
Artists Rights Society
65 Bleecker Street
New York, New York 10012
Media Image Resource Alliance (MIRA)
May view stock photography images and obtain permission
Visual Artists and Galleries Association, Inc.
521 Fifth Avenue Suite 800
New York, New York 10017
(212) 808-0064 Fax
Processes rights for television programs.
Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC)
Offers umbrella licenses for non-commercial use.
Swank Motion Pictures, Inc
Offers public perfomance licensing for non-theatre showings.
100 Chauncy Street
Boston, MA 02111-1783
(617) 482-7613 Fax
Dramatists Play Services, Inc.
440 Park Avenue South
NY, NY 10016
212) 213-1539 Fax
Music Theatre International (Major musicals)
545 Eighth Avenue
NY, NY 10018-4307
212) 643-8465 Fax
Samuel French, Inc.
45 West 25th Street
NY, NY 10010-2751
(212) 206-1429 Fax
University of Texas: Getting Permission
Includes permission sources for materials in multiple formats
The letter, on letterhead, should include:
- A complete description of the material to be used including author, title, editor, compiler, translator, and edition.
- The exact portion of the material, pages, and a photocopy if possible
- A description of how it will be used, including how many times, the number of people it will be distributed to, under what conditions (i.e. on or off campus, online course...)
- How the material will be reproduced (photocopy, off-set, digitized, etc.)
- A place for the recipient to sign to indicate that permission has been granted.
Remember that a non-response (silence) is not permission. If you receive oral permission, make sure you document the conversation and follow up with a letter.
Sample Permission Letter
Town, ST 12345
Month, Day, Year
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to ask your permission to copy the following for classroom use next quarter September 2001:
Author: John Smith
Book Title: The Life of John Smith, 3rd ed., 1982 (out of print)
Copyright: 1979, 1982
Pages: 23-35 of Chapter 10 "Life Abroad" (photocopy enclosed).
Number of Copies: 60 (3 sections of History 256, U. S. History to 1865)
Distribution: Supplied to students as free handout fall quarter 2001
Type of reprint: photocopy
Enclosed please find a self addressed, stamped envelope for your convenience in returning this signed permission.
If you do not solely control copyright of the requested material, I would appreciate any information you can provide about the copyright owners, including most recent addresses if available.
College of DuPage
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Please initial any statement that applies:
- I hereby represent that I have the authority to grant the permission requested herein.
- I am the sole owner/author of the work.
Author or company authorized signature _________________________