How to Obtain Copyright Permission

General Guidelines

When you wish to use a copyrighted work and such use cannot reasonably be justified as “fair use,” you should seek permission for this use from the copyright owner. Note that UNI does not provide a service to process such requests. Seeking and obtaining copyright permission is your responsibility.

There is no universally applicable set of steps to seek and obtain copyright permission, but the following are some guidelines: 

  • If you know who owns the copyright of the material and you can find a contact address, you may write directly to that person requesting permission. 
  • If do not know who owns the copyright, but do know the publisher of the material, contact the publisher for copyright permission. To determine the publisher, consult the copyright page and/or the acknowledgment page of the work. 
  • If the address of the publisher does not appear on the material, you may locate it in such publications as The Literary Market Place/ International Literary Market Place, Books in Print, or Ulrich's International Periodicals, available in most libraries. Note that each of the various forms of creative expression [print, video, audio, painting, etc.] has its own set of publishers and similar parties to whom one will have to submit copyright permission requests. 
  • In some, exceptional, cases, you may be unable to identify the copyright owner, or you may not be able to contact the copyright owner. If either of these situations occurs, please consult the UNI Copyright Committee at for guidance.

Placing Photocopies on Rod Library Reserve

Copyright permission must be obtained if you intend to place a "fair use" photocopy on reserve. You should communicate complete and accurate information to the copyright owner when seeking copyright permission. The American Association of Publishers suggests the following information be included in a permission letter.

  • Complete bibliographic citation of the material to be used.
  • Exact material to be used, giving amount, page numbers, chapters, and, if possible, a photocopy of the material.
  • The number of copies to be made.
  • Use to be made of duplicated material (e.g. course reserve material- electronic course reserve material.) If placing the material on reserve for a course include the course name and how many students enrolled in the course. Allow sufficient lead-time for the publisher to respond to the request.
  • Permission must be obtained each time the item is used unless a blanket or extended permission has been secured. Rights to copyrighted material are frequently transferred; therefore it is often difficult to secure permission for more than one-time (one semester) use. When requesting permission for subsequent uses of material, remember that the rights holder will not necessarily be able to process your request more quickly than the first time, and allow sufficient lead-time accordingly.
  • If you are using the material for electronic course reserves include this information in your permission letter.

Sample Copyright Request Letter

[publisher's address]

Dear Publisher/Copyright Holder:

I am writing to request permission to use the following material in my class at the University of Northern Iowa:

[Complete citation of work. Be as specific as possible, including chapter and page numbers]

University policy requires permission be granted by the copyright holder if the material is to be made available on reserve for more than one semester. Access to this material will be restricted to students, faculty, and staff of the University of Northern Iowa. The material will only be located by searching for a particular course or professor, and will not be listed by author or title.

Because time is of the essence, I would appreciate an early reply to this request. I have enclosed a self-addressed envelope for your convenience. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.


Faculty Member Name