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Whom do I ask?

If you can't use something under a licence or an exception in the law, you may need to ask for permission to use someone else's work you need to establish whom to ask.

With formally published works, you would normally seek permission to use something from the publisher, since they are most likely to own the copyright rather than the author. In print books check the verso page (that's the one near the front with the copyright and publication information); for online works, most large publishers will have a formal permissions process, so look for a 'permissions' link or a contact address/email. If it's not obvious check for a 'copyright' page or 'about' page.

With some web-based material, ownership can be harder to determine because you will often find things on a website that does not actually own the copyright for the material in question. In this case you should first consult the terms of use for the website but it is likely you would need to identify and ask the original creator of the material for permission.

In all theses cases make sure you retain evidence of all permissions, if not a formal agreement then an emails. Even if you obtain permission verbally, it's a good idea to make sure the permission is documented in some way (e.g. by a follow-up email).

Don't expect an immediate response -- in fact it's not uncommon to never receive a response. This doesn't mean you can just go ahead having tried to obtain permission. Rather it's the opposite: if it's in copyright you can't use it without explicit permission - unless fair dealing applies of course. Similarly if you can't even identify a creator and the work is still in copyright then you can't just go

Staff seeking permission

In some cases, neither the University's licensing agreements nor the rights granted by the Copyright Act allow staff to copy material for students. In such cases, you need to seek permission from the copyright holder. When seeking permission, include the following information in your request:

  • precise details of what will be used (i.e. exact page numbers and images -- avoid imprecise statements such as “some graphs,” “one chapter” and the like); include ISBN/ISSN numbers for books/periodicals.
  • whether it will be used for teaching or research or a publication of some sort -- whether this is a commercial use is especially important to indicate;
  • when it will be used (e.g. avoid misunderstandings such as the copyright holder assuming that the intended use will be for a single year when the person making the request might want to use the material indefinitely). If it's for teaching you can indicate a teaching period or that you want to use it indefinitely; if it's for a research, will you simply be referring to it or will you reproduce it in some way; if it's for a publication, what is the distribution?
  • how the material will be copied and distributed, e.g. medium, format, platform, whether password-protected etc.;
  • who will receive it (e.g. staff/students or the public etc.), with numbers indicated as precisely as possible; and
  • how you propose to attribute the material and any copyright message to students that might accompany it (e.g. "This material has been copied with permission from the rights holder. You may use it for your own study in this paper but must not copy it further or share with anyone outside the paper, except where your use would fall within fair dealing allowed under NZ law.").

Students seeking permission

The above generally applies for students too, though your use is likely to be for your own thesis or research work. Make it clear what your intended use is. For example, if you intend to make your thesis available electronically through the OUR Archive or to use material in an article based on one of your chapters this is different from use for the hard copy that is only available to walk-in library users or via inter-loan.

The University Library has developed a permissions template letter on its thesis information page (in the box labeled 'Copying where you need permission'). This is designed for students but equally applicable to other researchers.

Costs & terms of use

Some publishers will charge for use of material, with the amount depending on what you intend to do with it. Even students sometimes have to pay but you may find -- e.g. through a service many large publishers offer, via the the Copyright Clearance Centre -- that use in a student thesis is free. For teaching staff wanting to use something in a class, the cost may well be based on the number of copies you need. If your use is commercial, such as publishing your own book, then often the agreement will be offered based on the number of copies to be printed or even as a share of royalties.

Read the terms under which the publisher grants permission very carefully. They may stipulate very specific attribution requirements. And it is now common practice for a rights holder to offer options depending on whether your use is hard-copy based or electronic. Some terms of use restrict permission to a certain time period, e.g. granting a licence to use an electronic image for one year (which may be technically impossible, rendering this option useless to you).

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