Part IV: How To Request Permission
Now you have made the basic copyright analysis. If your use is either unrestricted or fair use, you may proceed without further ado. If your proposed use exceeds fair use, you need permission from the copyright owner. Prepare a direct and concise letter; you will find a sample form in Appendix A to this manual. A good permission letter includes a thorough description of the material to be used and a detailed explanation of how it will be used. The letter also includes a place for the recipient to sign indicating permission is granted. You must have an affirmative response. Silence is not permission.
Perhaps the most important part of the letter is the addressee. You may need to spend considerable effort identifying the proper copyright owner. The creator of a new work owns the copyright at its inception, but copyrights may be sold, given away, or assigned. Writers frequently transfer copyright privileges to their publishers. Most published works include a copyright notice, which should indicate the original claimant of ownership. Write to the party named in the notice. The reference department of your university library should have biographical resources and directories of publishers to help you locate addresses. If the work does not name the author or publisher, or if you have doubts about copyright ownership, a search of records in the Copyright Office described earlier in this manual might identify an original registrant. The Copyright Office also records some documents that transfer rights to new owners. Copyrights may be jointly owned by co-authors or successors. You need permission from only one co-owner for a "nonexclusive" license, but to avoid potential conflicts among them, you should ideally obtain permission from all owners.
The search for copyright owners may be simple, or it may be a major detective adventure. For example, an early Philadelphia newspaper merged with a competing paper. The surviving company later went out of business. Its remaining assets including copyrights ended up with an oil company in Jacksonville, Florida. Writing to a newspaper should be easy, but not after several generations of corporate transition. Journals change names and are sold to different publishing houses. You need to find the current owner. The original author might have retained the copyright, but the author might now be dead. Copyrights may be devised by the author’s will, but few wills specifically mention them. So the copyrights pass to some relative or other beneficiary who may have no idea that he or she has inherited the rights at all. This situation arises often when working with unpublished manuscripts and correspondence. Consult with the manuscript curator or archivist for names of owners or relatives. The library’s ownership of the documents does not necessarily include ownership of the copyrights. Newspaper obituaries may also name surviving family members. You may find yourself calling on unsuspecting descendants for information and permissions. Be prepared for some curious and seemingly bewildering exploits. Be prepared to explain clearly your reason for calling or writing, and keep records.
Throughout this process, the telephone can be your most efficient ally. Before sending any letter, call to confirm the address and the name of someone to address personally. Call to be sure you have found the current copyright owner. Call to be sure your recipient understands the copyright issues and will cooperate in granting permission. If permission will eventually be denied, better to learn early. You might find that the copyright owner has a preferred permission form, instead of using your form. Although some publishers discourage calls, a few long-distance calls can ordinarily relieve much uncertainty, focus your quest, and ultimately save enormous amounts of time and energy. You will find that some copyright owners will quickly give permission over the telephone. Graciously accept their generosity, but confirm the conversation with a permission letter that asks for the grantor’s signature. The written permission can eliminate possible disagreements, and UMI and other publishers will need the documentation.
Writers are constantly plagued by silence from copyright owners. You make your best efforts to obtain permission, you send the proper letter, and you hear nothing. Begin sending your letters four months or more before filing the dissertation; send a reminder request each month until you have a response. Send your letters certified mail, requesting a return receipt, if you doubt they are being received. Most authors and publishers will understand your request and give a fairly prompt answer. But remember: copyright owners have no obligation to respond. They have no obligation to grant or deny permissions or to offer any explanation. If you cannot locate the copyright owner, or if you do not get permission, you face some difficult choices. You might delete, rewrite, or reduce that portion of your dissertation to remove the potential infringement. You might reasonably conclude and accept the risk that no one remains to assert any copyright claim or to object to your use. Consult with your faculty advisor about the appropriate action and the relative importance of the material for your dissertation. Copyright owners may also request a fee for the permission ranging from nominal to prohibitive. You need to decide whether your use of the material is sufficiently important to justify the fee. You should also not hesitate to negotiate a lower price.
The diverse media of modern research pose new problems when seeking permissions. Motion picture companies and other commercial enterprises may be accustomed to granting permissions for other commercial uses—at hefty fees and on rigorous contractual terms. Not all copyright owners are acquainted with the realities of scholarly pursuits. If your budget for royalties is small, some owners may lose interest in working with you. The effort will be at times frustrating, but the burden is on you to articulate your needs and to pursue the permissions. Keep detailed records of your efforts to locate owners and to negotiate licenses. That record of due diligence can demonstrate your good faith in the unlikely event that someone would challenge you.
Submit copies of your permission letters when filing your dissertation, and be sure to keep copies for your records. Common courtesy means thanking the grantors in an acknowledgment section of your dissertation. Copyright owners may dictate a credit line to include with the reprinted material. You should send a letter of thanks to each grantor, and let them know how they might purchase a copy of the dissertation from UMI. Few people will expect you to give a copy of the dissertation in exchange for the permission, unless their consent was imperative for conducting your study.