14. How do I get permission to use someone else’s work?

You ask! If your use isn’t permitted by a licence or by one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, you will need to ask for permission. The permission must come from the copyright owner, so the first step is to identify who the copyright owner is, whether that consists of an individual or an organization. There are a number of copyright collectives who can give you permission (in the form of a licence) on behalf of the copyright owner to use their work. So, for example, if you want to use a piece of music and your use doesn’t fall within any of the Copyright Act’s exceptions, you may be able to obtain permission from copyright collectives such as the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) or Re:Sound, all of which administer copyright in music.

But if the copyright owner is easily identifiable and locatable, it can sometimes be easier to contact them directly, since many copyright owners will give permission to academic users without requiring payment. Usually you’ll be able to identify the owner by looking for the copyright symbol (©), which should have the copyright owner’s name next to it. You’ll often find this at the beginning of a book, at the side of a photograph or at the bottom of a webpage. Once you’ve located the copyright owner, simply email or write to them, explaining how and why you want to use the work and requesting permission. The Additional Resources page contains a request for permission template as a guide. An email will suffice, but permission should be in writing; it is not advisable to rely on verbal permission. You should also keep a file record of who gave you permission, what was permitted, the date, and how to contact the person who gave you permission.

Frequently Asked Questions