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How do I ask permission to use another persons Intellectual property/copyright?

In this article we will look at how to go about obtaining permission to use another parties copyrighted material now that we have found it online. This article will not cover how to find the copyright owner as this was already covered in a previous article.

What we will be covering however is how to actually ask the copyright holder for permission.

None of the articles in this series are legal advice but rather a compilation of information and experience I have gathered over the years. If after reading any of these articles you feel you have a case please seek legal advice from a solicitor before proceeding.

Obtaining Permission to Use Another Parties Work

All communications with another party relating to copyright should begin with email. This is to ensure there is a written trail of communications should anything go wrong down the track. This communication should begin as soon as the material come to your attention and well before you actually need to use it. Obtaining permission from another party can take some time to complete so start as early as possible.

The email address for doing this can usually be obtained from the website on which the material is already being displayed. If you have not already found the copyright holder for the material you wish to use you should consult the previous article in this series to find out how to locate them.

If the website you found the material on is a small site try to keep this contact email as informal as possible. Larger websites keep the information as short and concise yet as formal as possible. Remember they are probably dealing dozens of other requests at the same time as yours. Write your email to suit the party you are writing too.

Initial contact emails should include the following:

  • Your name and contact details and whom you represent so that they may get back you and know whom they are dealing with.
  • Specify exactly what materials you which to use or reproduce.
  • Specify how you wish to use these materials. Include such details of what formats it is to be re-produced in.
  • Where you wish to reproduce it.
  • Is the materials to be used for education, non-profit and for commercial use.
  • Why you would like to use the materials. Feel free to flatter the author in the hopes of getting a better deal.
  • Distribution of the materials. How many copies do you intend to produce or rough estimate of the number of visitors etc.
  • Details of any modifications you wish to make to the work.
  • How do you intend on providing credit to them for the work.

The more information you provide in this initial contact email the more information they will have to make up their minds as to giving you permission. If you don’t give all this information time will be wasted as they try to get all the details they need to make their decision. The process can take a while sometimes so you don’t want to be wasting time right off the bat.

Keep all communications with the other party civil. If negotiations aren’t going your way getting upset about it will only make things worse. Don’t burn your bridges as you may need to use something else of theirs down the track. If they want too much this time round in return just say no and move on. Even if this means you have to make your own work from scratch. Remember don’t copy their work.

If you receive no email back do not assume permission. Unless you have permission in writing do not proceed as this will only land you in hot water down the track. Send them another email. If you still receive no response move on or see if you can track down another way to get hold of them like a phone number.

Hope you found this article helpful. The previous article in this series was HOW DO I ENSURE I DO NOT INFRINGE ON COPYRIGHT?. This article is followed by How do I find out if someone is infringing on my Copyright?

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