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Using Copyrighted Works

Find resources and recommendations on making legal and ethical use of copyrighted scholarly work.

Options when you can't get permission

Sometimes it is not possible to get permission.  The copyright owner may choose not to respond. In some cases this may be because the owner's records (often a publisher) either have been lost or destroyed by merger, fire or conflict.  The copyright owner may not be possible to identify, e.g. the publisher has gone out of business, or the creator is deceased, and there is no clue as to who owns or controls the estate of the creator.  Or, the copyright owner may have quoted a royalty fee of extraordinary size, or perhaps simply said no.  You still have options:

  • The easiest choice here is to use a different work, one which is either in the public domain, licensed for your use, or for which a license can easily be found.  
  • If that is not feasible, reconsider your use.  Can you use less of the work and still make your point?  
  • Finally if there is no other choice, carefully build a case for why your use could be considered Fair Use.  Address each of the four factors in your analysis.  Keep detailed records of your attempts to locate or contact the owner if you received no reply.