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Just ask for Permission

If you want to use someone else's work, and it does not fall under Fair Use, copyright free websites, or Creative Commons, ask permission for from the copyright owner. Often times a link to the owners or website developers email is available directly on the page in which the work was found.

In many cases, especially if it is for educational use, permission could be granted within a week or so. If you do not hear back from the copyright owner assume permission is NOT given and look for alternative material.

If you are unsure who owns the copyright, you can conduct a search on your own or go through the United States Copyright Office and have them conduct a search for a fee.

How to ask Permission?

When requesting permission, do so in writing (email or regular mail) so that you have proof and make sure to:

  • Determine who is the rightful copyright owner.

Sometimes the website developer or the contact person on the website may know or forward your request onto another who would be better able to answer your questions.

  • Be as specific as possible about how the work will be used.

Indicate where, when, how long, and how much of the work will be used. If for a class, let them know if it is online, in a secured environment or in a face-to-face classroom. Include if you will use if for the current semester or plan to make it part of your course. Also state exactly how much of the work you want to use and if you want to modify it in any way.

  • If you feel as if the person you are communicating with is not the actual owner of the copyright, error on the side of caution and do not use the work till ownership is confirmed.

Additional information on asking for Permission can be found on the website. also has information on what to ask within a Copyright Permissions Letter.

Examples of Permission letters

Following permission examples were created by Columbia University Libraries under the Creative Commons Attribution License.


CopyRight@BC website is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact a licensed copyright lawyer if in need of counseling.


Phil Roche
Copyright Librarian

Linda McConnell
Digital Copyright Manager

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