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Copyright Policy

When Permission is Required


Faculty will need to request copyright permission if a situation meets any of the following criteria (these criteria are applicable for reserve readings as well, since a library “reserve room” is considered an extension of the classroom):

  • Falls outside the acceptable use provisions in the Treadwell Library subscription license
  • Fails to meet criteria for fair use
  • Has been used in previous semesters by the same instructor, regardless of the amount of time occurring between instances
  • Will be used in more than one course taught by the same instructor
  • Is a workbook, study guide, standardized test, or other consumable publication
  • For virtual classrooms: is of a length that extends beyond an amount that could be reasonably used during a class session or in preparation for a class discussion.
  • Distribution or display extends beyond the limits of a specific course (numbers of students, time period, etc.)

How to Obtain Permission

If you determine that you do, indeed, need to seek permission to use a work, here is some information that may help.

  1. Identify the copyright owner
    • ​​Look for a copyright statement at the beginning of the published work to confirm the copyright owner.
    • Rarely, an author of an article or chapter may retain the rights to their work. In those cases, the copyright statement for the entire publication may be misleading. However, contacting the copyright holder for the entire publication should clear up any confusion.
  2. Secure Permission
    • ​​For journal articles where the publisher holds the rights, look on the journal's web page for a section called "rights and permissions" for details about submitting permissions requests.
    • For books where the publisher holds the rights, check the verso of the title page for contact information or check the web page of the publisher for a permissions department.
    • For audio-visual materials, look for an "acceptable use" or "rights and permissions" file.
    • In the case of author held permission, if you cannot find contact information for the copyright holder, try contacting WATCH (Writers, Authors, and their Copyright Holders).
    • If you know you will need to pay for permission, many publishers use the Copyright Clearance Center, which offers a pay-per-use option.
    • You may also draft your own permissions letter. The Columbia University Libraries have some useful guidelines for writing effective permissions letters.
  3. Keep a detailed record of the process
    If you should ever be questioned about your use of copyrighted materials, having clear records of your decision making and permission seeking process will help you defend your position. Keep copies of permission requests and responses and your fair use decision making. Columbia University Libraries' Fair Use Checklist can be helpful.