Seeking copyright permission

If you wish to use copyright work for a purpose that does not come under educational purposes, fair dealing or any of the exceptions or licences then you must contact the copyright owner to obtain permission in order to use his/her work. The CLA licence does permit commercial copying but any commercial copying of material not covered by the CLA licence must be permitted before it can be undertaken.

How to seek permission

It is a good idea to contact the publisher or the company that released the copyright work in the first instance. Many of these companies are used to dealing with permission requests. If they are not able to clarify the situation with you, they almost certainly would know who you should contact over the matter.

The sooner you apply for permission the better as you cannot be sure how long the process may take. It may also be wise to establish a contingency plan in case permission is not granted.

You may be required to pay a fee, particularly if the work is used for a commercial purpose. These may come in the form of royalties or a flat fee.

To assist the efficiency and speed of obtaining permission for copyright work, including the following information to your application would be beneficial:

  • Your full contact details;
  • The exact description of the content you wish to use, including the ISBN number if the copyright work is book, the web address if it is a webpage etc.;
  • Detailed description of how you would like the work to be used;
  • Whether your use will generate income. If so, how many units you expect to sell, how much income you expect to generate etc.

Once you receive the permission to use the work, make sure that it is in writing so you will have proof that you can refer to at all times. Furthermore, when using the work, make sure that it is attributed correctly and that all copyright laws are followed.

Reasonable effort

If you are unable to contact the copyright owner but a substantial effort has been made on your part to locate the owner, then you may still be able use the copyright work as intended.

The law recognises that some copyright owners may be extremely difficult to locate, which would be unfair to individuals wishing to use the copyright work. Thus the law states that if a user is unable to locate the copyright owner, as long as a user has put in 'reasonable effort' to trace the owner, then the copyright material may be used.

You must be very cautious when using this exemption as reasonable effort must be proved and if your effort is deemed insufficient by the law then you will be infringing copyright and will probably be required to pay damages to the owner.

Make sure that your searches are relevant. Use any licensing agencies, organisations or publishers and post in related journals which the copyright owner may read. Keep a full careful record of the resources and time spent on finding the copyright owner. Send any letters by recorded delivery and keep the file organised and in a safe place it will be the only way you can prove yourself

When publishing the copyright work in question, it is advisable to include a statement alongside to seek the copyright owner and to offer to meet reasonable licensing conditions.