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Copyright: Permissions & Licensing

A guide for CSUF faculty, staff, and students.

Asking for Permission

Before you ask, make sure your intended use requires permission. The work may have fallen into the public domain or be available to use under one of the copyright exceptions. The work may already be licensed through the Pollak Library's electronic resources or there may be an "open" alternative available under a Creative Commons license.

Identifying the copyright holder can sometimes help. Copyright protection is limited to seventy years after the life of the author, so pay attention to the birth and death dates next to the author's name in the Pollak Library's catalog, OneSearch.

Once you've made a clear determination that the work is protected and your use does not fall under one of the copyright exceptions, you'll need to ask for permission if you want to reuse the work.

Asking for permission typically involves sending a request to the copyright holder stating, in detail, your intended purpose and asking if they will agree to let you.

You should anticipate a range of possible responses. The copyright holder might be flattered to hear from you, excited about your proposed use, and happy to issue an immediate grant of permission. Or you may receive a more business-like response. Many businesses have an established department dedicated to licensing permission. In that case, they may want to know more information about what you're trying to do in order to generate a quote. Ultimately, you're trying to enter into an agreement, in writing, with the copyright holder so that you can move forward with your work. 

Once you secure written permission, always keep a copy for your records.

The permissions request process is rarely straightforward. If the copyright holder is a corporation, finding the right department to send a request may be a challenge. In cases where the author has passed, heirs may be difficult to track down. Responses to a permission request can range from a detailed quote of costs to a non-response and therefore, one needs to start the search as early as possible and be prepared for any eventuality. If you do not hear back, you may still consider applying fair use in a similar approach to orphan works. 

Library Electronic Resources

The Pollak Library's electronic resources are licensed for your use. Licensing is a private contract between two parties, in this case, the University and an information vendor. If you want to know the terms of the license, you can view them in the OneSearch record. Just click "SHOW LICENSE" next to the full text link on the electronic resource record and the licensing information will display. Click "HIDE LICENSE" to return the electronic resource record back to its original setting.

Image of an item record in OneSearch with the "Hide License" link highlighted


Orphan Works

Orphan Works are works that are protected by copyright, but the copyright holder cannot be found or even, in some cases, determined. These works were typically published between 1925 and 1978 when the Copyright Act of 1976 took effect. Similar situations can arise during the permissions process as in the case where the copyright owner does not respond to your permission request.

Whenever you reach a dead end in a permission search, you should reconsider your fair use analysis. The fourth factor of fair use, market effect, takes into account the potential impact on the market for the original. Reconsidering this factor in light of your permission search, you may find that your use will have limited harm on the market for the original and might yield a different fair use outcome when taken into consideration with the other three factors. You may also consider finding an alternative source or changing the amount of the item you were planning to use in a way that would be more fair.

Helpful Links

Here are some helpful pages with more information about asking for permission:

Asking for Permission Kenneth Crews, Columbia University

Copyright Crash Course: Getting Permission Georgia Harper, University of Texas


For assistance with permission requests, contact Anthony Davis Jr., Copyright & Policy Librarian,