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 Obtaining Copyright Permission


Q: When do I need to get copyright permission to use something in the classroom?

A: Most, but not all, use of material in a face-to-face classroom is permissible under the guidelines of fair use. Use of material in distance education is more problematic. For help in deciding if your material falls under the guidelines of fair use, see a librarian.


Q: My work doesn’t fall within the parameters of fair use. What should I do next?

A: You need to ask the copyright owner for permission to use the work. Contact the individual or organization given with the copyright notice. Be aware, however, that copyrights can be transferred, so it may be necessary to track down the current copyright holder. Also, check acknowledgements, credits, etc. to see if a particular portion of a work is attributed to someone else. You must then contact that rights holder.


You may secure copyright permission over the phone or through e-mail. However, keep track of all conversations in writing and follow up with a written letter confirming the agreement. Examples of letters may be found at


You must receive an affirmative permission. A lack of response from the copyright holder does not give you permission. The copyright holder may also charge a fee for use. Remember also that it is always a good idea to acknowledge to copyright holder in your work.


Q: Are there other ways to secure copyright permission?

A: The U.S. Copyright Office ( will conduct searches to identify the owners of copyright; however, they charge a high fee. The Copyright Clearance Center ( acts on behalf of publishers and other copyright owners to grant copyright permission, especially for education purposes. Other organizations, such as BMI and ASCAP for musical rights, may license works on behalf of the copyright owners. However, you can expect all of these organizations to charge fees.


Q: Where else can I go for information?

A: The Association of American Printers has two good tip sheets written especially for those in higher education asking permission for use of materials in the classroom.


The University of Texas System maintains a Copyright Crash Course that brings a bit of levity to an otherwise serious subject.


Created by Katie Yelinek on 11/30/05. Updated by Brenda Corman.
Compiled from Copyright Essentials for Librarians and Educators by Kenneth D. Crews and Complete Copyright: An Everyday Guide for Librarians by Carrie Russell.



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