Getting permission to use something

Seeking permission yourself (for students)

You can seek permission from the copyright owner yourself. Seeking permission isn't hard, but it can be time consuming.

If you need permission to use something for University business, please contact the Copyright Office.

Identify the copyright owner(s)

First identify who owns the copyright in the material and find their contact details Normally copyright is owned by the creator, but copyright is often transferred to a publisher, producer or employer where work is done for hire.

For book or journal content, contact the publisher in the first instance. They may be able to grant you permission or pass on your request to the author.

If need to contact an artist and you can’t find contact details, try contacting a gallery that has showcased their work or the Copyright Agency, who manage rights on behalf of artists. They might be able to grant you permission, pass on your request or provide you with contact details. Rights for films are usually managed by production companies or distributors.

If the creator has passed away, you’ll need to contact their estate. Be aware there may be numerous copyright owners, such as for sound recordings of musical works. If there are numerous copyright owners, you must seek permission from all of the copyright owners, and they all must agree.

Write your permission letter

Once you have contact details, you need to write a letter of request. Your request should state the following things:

  • who you are
  • the content you want to use
  • how and why you want to use it
  • where it will be made available and how many copies will be available
  • who will have access to it, and under what circumstances
  • if a fee will be charged, and if so whether it is for profit or cost recovery only
  • how long you want to use it for

Things to remember

Get it in writing. A verbal agreement is a good start, but if there's a disagreement in the future, it's very hard to prove. Even if you’re getting permission from a friend, always get it in writing. It’s not uncommon for relationships to break down and for disputes to arise. This is a common problem and easily avoidable by keeping a written record.

Keep a record. Keep records of any correspondence you send and receive. Once you have permission in writing, make sure you keep it somewhere where you can find it if you need it in the future.

Follow up. If you don’t hear back from them within a week, send another email.

You may be asked to pay a fee. Copyright owners have a right to place a value on their work and charge someone to use it. If the fee is too high for you, you can negotiate or consider alternatives.

No response doesn’t mean you can use it. Sometimes you won’t get a response, but this doesn't mean you can use the content. If you do, you are in breach of copyright and could be asked to cease and desist or you could be charged. Don't use a statement like "All reasonable efforts have been made to contact the copyright owner" - this is still a breach of copyright.

Getting permission/license from Rightslink

Some publishers demand permission requests are made through the Copyright Clearance Center's Rightslink. This is an automated permissions and licensing system that allows users to fill in a form to generate the required permission or licence.

Publishers that request licensing through Rightslink tend to have "Rights and Permissions" links attached to abstracts and articles which will pre-populate the citation details of the content you're requesting in your Rightslink form. If not, you can search for the content you want through Rightslink. After your content has been selected, you:

  • use drop-down menus to select your requested use, and
  • select the "quick quote" button to determine what charge (if any) will be generated for your use. You will not be charged nor are you obligated to continue with a quote that is generated.

If the drop-down menu does not cater for your request, you should search the publisher's website for a permissions, rights or copyright person and send your request with the subject line "Non-Rightslink permission Request" and advise:

  • the details of your request in the email, and
  • why your permission was unable to be processed through Rightslink.

If you're happy with the fee, you may submit your form. You will then be prompted to provide personal details for billing and sending the licence.

The request will be processed quickly and you should receive a response within 24 hours. Read your grant of license carefully as it will contain important information as to the conditions of your licence - including how the publisher would like to be attributed.

Using our permissions service (for staff)

If you need to use something for teaching or University purposes and your use is not covered by an exception in the Act, the Copyright Office can seek permission for you.

Gaining permission may take weeks or months, and the copyright owner may request payment, so always contact the Copyright Office as soon as possible.

It’s also a good idea to have a back-up plan in case the content owner takes too long to respond or demands too much money.

Requests for University purposes

Contact the Copyright Office with:

  • a full citation for the work you need
  • how much you want to use (e.g. word count/chapters/page numbers/description)
  • how you want to use it (e.g. on faculty site, in a video, at an event)
  • who will be accessing the content (e.g. public, staff and students only, invited guests)
  • how long do you intend to use or make the content available for? (e.g. one-time event, ongoing, two months, etc)
  • how many students will be accessing the content

Seeking additional permission for library subscribed content

Library resources have accompanying licenses which states how you can and cannot use the resource. If you want to use library content in a way not mentioned in the license, we can request permission from the publisher. Contact the Copyright Office for more information.

Considering alternatives

It's worth considering alternatives because permissions are often short term and require re-negotiation and ongoing fees. Avoiding permissions will ensure that the content in your subject is more sustainable.

Often academics write several papers and books on the same subject, so you may be able to find a chapter from one book, another chapter from a different book, and a section from a paper that will cover the reading you want your students to do.

If the author hasn’t written about the same subject, check to see if someone else has written a good chapter on the same subject that would be a worthy replacement for the chapter(s) you can’t have from the first book.

Consider talking to your liaison librarian about what you want for your students. They can work with you to help find alternative resources.