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Copyright: Basic Facts for Teaching

Permission to Use Copyrighted Material

You should obtain prior written permission from the copyright owner to copy/use materials in those situations when you have applied the four factors of "fair use" (the purpose and character of the use; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount to be used; and the effect of the use on the market) and have found your use of the materials to be outside the fair use guidelines. Usually obtaining such permission is not difficult and, in most cases for classroom use, there are no royalty charges.

Applying Fair Use, Licensing and Requesting Permission




   Fair Use allows limited use of copyrighted
   materials under certain circumstances without
   getting permission from the copyright holder. It
   is usually used for educational purposes.


  The four factors to be considered for determining
Fair Use are:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work


   Licenses are available for some types of
   copyrighted material that allow for its
   use.  Licenses are formal agreements
   that give permission to an individual or 
   organization to do something such as in
   this case permission to use copyrighted

   For example, DVDs are generally sold to
   individuals for home use only. They
   usually have a warning on them that
   states something like, "Licensed for
   private home viewing only. Any other use
   prohibited." Most videos are sold for
   home use only, and any public viewing of
   the video is not permitted. This 
   means that you may not project it on a big
   screen for friends and neighbors or
   show it to a group of faculty/staff/students
   on campus as part of a video series. If
   you want to do either of these things, you
   must purchase a video with a license for
   public performance rights.

   Another example of this is the Library’s
   subscription databases. They are
   licensed to the Library to allow access to
   whomever the license agreement allows.


   When all other options are exhausted, you
    will need to seek permission from the
    copyright owner to use/duplicate the


    The permission letter on letterhead should

  • Date
  • Name of the author, web author, publisher or editor. Title and editions of material to be reproduced; include this info for webpages, also.
  • How the material will be reproduced (photocopy, off-set, digitized, etc.
  • Exact material to be used, giving amount, page numbers, chapters, URL link, etc.
  • Description of how it will be used, including how many times, the number of people it will be distributed to, under what conditions (i.e. on or off campus, online course...)
  • Details of whether the material will be sold commercially for financial gain (profit) or compensation (cost recovery) or neither?
  • Details of the individual making request: describe yourself, position, organization represented if applicable. Include return address, telephone/FAX numbers and email.
  • A place for the recipient to sign to indicate that permission has been granted.



If you receive oral permission, document the conversation and follow up with a letter.



 This guide is for informational purposes only.

 It should not be used in place of the advice of legal counsel.