Seeking Permission to Copy
Eight questions to ask yourself when you are considering using someone else’s material
There may be occasions when you can’t copy material without the copyright owner's permission. These may include instances where you're publishing a book or article in which you wish to include someone else’s material, such as an image, a substantial piece of text, or other content.
- Have I allowed enough time?
- What’s my ‘Plan B’?
- Who owns the copyright?
- How do I intend to use the material now, and in the future?
- Is my request reasonable?
- How much am I willing to pay?
- Is my request short and simple?
- Where will I keep a copy of my permission letter or email?
Also... Resources for getting permission
Ensure you give yourself plenty of time to seek permission from the copyright owner for reusing the material. You'll need to establish the contact details of the copyright owner. Also, it's sometimes hard to identify who owns copyright in a piece of work, and often it takes a while for the copyright owner to respond.
If you're unsure who you should contact or have difficulty receiving a response, contact the UOW Copyright Officer for assistance on 4221 8164 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure the success of your project doesn’t hinge upon whether you can obtain permission to use a particular work. Identify substitute works, and seek permission to use those works at the beginning of the project as well.
Some material has more than one layer of copyright, so copyright could be owned by different people. For example, a music CD typically includes copyright in the lyrics, the musical works, the sound recording, and any artistic works printed on the CD. In such cases, you would need to get permission for each one, separately. Where possible, address your request directly to the copyright owner.
Make sure that you ask permission for all the possible uses you may have for the material, including any future uses. For example, you may later wish to include the work in a commercial publication, but if you don’t get permission to do so initially you'll need to ask again at a later date.
Make sure you balance your need for broad permissions (see point 4) against the copyright owner's potential concerns about widespread use of their work. Don’t ask for too much!
Some copyright owners will ask for a licence fee. Before you talk to them, think about how much you are willing to pay, and under what circumstances.
Put your request in writing, in a few short paragraphs. Use bullet points to set out your intended uses. If your request is lengthy, or difficult to understand, you're not likely to succeed.
You may use the following template as the basis for structuring your request:
Dear [copyright owner],
I am completing a [degree/research paper/book chapter/monograph] at the University of Wollongong (Australia), and I seek your permission to use [item/s] from [book/article/movie etc] in my project.
[Provide a very brief overview of your work - no more than two sentences.]
The distribution information for my project is as follows:
I look forward to hearing from you.
And then, when you’re successful in getting permission…
Make sure you file all permission letters/emails in a safe and accessible place. You may need to refer to the permission in the unlikely event that a dispute arises between you and the copyright owner.
Australia has a number of organisations that act on behalf of copyright owners. If your use of third party copyright material falls outside the exceptions and licences described elsewhere in this site, you can contact the relevant agency below for help in gaining permission.
If you are unsure who you should contact or have difficulty receiving a response, contact the Copyright Officer for advice.
CA – Copyright Agency
UOW pays for a licence to copy certain books, articles, essays and artwork. If your use isn't for educational purposes you'll need to contact CA to organise a separate licence.
Television & Radio Programs
UOW pays for a licence to copy film, television and radio productions, where they've been broadcast on TV or radio. If your use isn't for educational purposes you'll need to contact Screenrights to organise a separate licence.
APRA/AMCOS – Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society.
PPCA – Phonographic Performance Company of Australia
UOW pays for the right to copy, perform or broadcast certain music. If your use isn't for educational purposes you'll need to contact APRA/AMCOS or PPCA to organise a separate licence.
Artworks & Photographs
Some copying of artworks – where they're contained within books and journals – is covered by the university’s CA licence. If your use isn't covered by this licence, or isn't for educational purposes, you'll need to contact Viscopy to organise a separate licence.
Viscopy licences are administered by CA.