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Getting Permission and Finding Open Materials

Getting Permission

In situations where you don’t feel like you’re safely in fair use territory with your proposed use of copyrighted material, and your use doesn’t fall under another copyright exception, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck, because you can still ask the author or creator for permission.

Permission doesn’t have to take any particular form, though it is a good idea get it in writing where possible.

Some things to include in your permission request letter:

  • Identify yourself and your institution -- nonprofit, educational

  • Identify the portions of the work you want to use

  • Describe your proposed use, including any changes you want to make -- again, emphasize the nonprofit educational purpose, and most likely the lack of funding for licensing fees

  • Describe restrictions you’ll place on the audience (only campus, class)

  • Request contact information for other rightsholders

  • Offer to provide attribution, and ask for preferred format

Finding Openly Licensed Materials

Another alternative is to look for openly licensed alternatives online.

Some materials will carry a Creative Commons license –depending on the type of license, you can do different things with the materials under different conditions. The least restrictive is CC-BY, which means you just have to give attribution to the original creator, and they get more restrictive from there.

Another option is to find openly licensed materials through Google. For example, Google has an option in its advanced image search where you can search by usage rights for images that are free to use and share.

Wikimedia Commons is another source for openly licensed images.

You can also search for an article you want to use in Google Scholar, and you’ll often find a .pdf version of that article in an institutional repository.

EDUCAUSE Legal Sources of Online Content

Finally, you can generally provide links to copyrighted materials without encountering issues with copyright.