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Copyright Guide: Seeking Permissions

Alternatives if you are denied or unable to obtain permission to copy

Examples of alternatives to copying parts of a published work that do or may fall outside fair dealing guidelines:

1. Put the entire book, DVD, or journal issue on reserve in the library.
2. In a site restricted to members of your class, create electronic links to full text articles available either freely on the web (e.g. Open Access or Creative Commons licenses) or through one of the databases subscribed to by the library, as long as the terms and conditions of the agreement with the database provider (e.g. EBSCO, Proquest, JSTOR) allow such use of the articles.

Can I use an image I found on a search engine?

Here is a link to a short post from that talks about using images found through search engines. The basic premise is that you should start with the assumption that any image you find online will likely be protected by copyright. The post then gives a few tips on using images found through search engines. The process will become easier over time as you become more familiar with resources, and you are more likely to prevent some serious headaches if someone is aware you are using their material without permission.

Seeking permissions when material falls outside of Fair Dealing guidelines.

When the nature or the extent of copying that you wish to do falls outside of "fair dealing", the onus is on faculty to obtain permission from the copyright holder and to maintain records of those permissions. Otherwise, you may be held personally liable and subject to the civil and criminal remedies outlined in the Copyright Act.

The first step in obtaining permission is to determine who holds copyright on the work. Check the item for this information:

  • verso (flip side) of the title page
  • slip case of a video, sound recording, or boxed set
  • credits statement (beginning or end of a video)
  • rights statement on a web page
  • accompanying contract or license

If you are unable to determine who holds the copyright, you may also contact the rights agency for the materials (e.g., SOCAN, Government of Canada, etc.) or the publisher to request the information.

Once you have established who holds copyright, you should either fill out a copyright permissions request form on the publisher website if provided (see links) or write a letter to the copyright owner or publisher (attention: permissions), requesting permission to use the material (see templates). Your letter should include the following information:

  • your name
  • the name of the institution
  • the intended use of the material
  • the intended audience for distribution/performance (e.g., educational, not for profit, intranet users with controlled access)
  • the intended duration of distribution/performance (e.g., one academic term only, number of times it will be used)
  • the intended medium of reproduction (e.g., paper, video, broadcast, electronic)
  • the title of work
  • the author/editor/creator of the work
  • the date of publication/production
  • the time or origin of broadcast, where applicable
  • the ISBN, ISSN, catalogue number, program number, or other unique identifier
  • the chapters, pages, or section to be duplicated
  • the number of copies to be made
  • the provision for payment of royalty fees, if any are due

If you receive permission to copy the material, keep a copy of the letter, fax or form granting permission for your records. You should also ensure that your copies include a statement regarding the holder of copyright and the fact that you obtained permission for the specific use.

Copyright Permissions Flowchart

This Copyright Permissions Flowchart summarizes the legislated requirements for copying as outlined by Fair Dealing and the Canadian Copyright Act.  The flowchart and the accompanying Copyright Permissions Documentation Process document outlines the processes of how and when to obtain permissions for copyright material including where to store those permissions upon receipt.  It is recommended to use this flowchart in conjunction with the information available in this guide.   Please note on this page, publisher permission request forms, permission letter templates and details on the information required by publishers and copyright holders when requesting permissions. 

Publisher Permission Request Forms

Some publishers provide convenient online forms for requesting permissions. If you approach a publisher for permission to copy and they in turn refer you to Access Copyright for permissions, you will be unable to use those materials and will need to seek out alternative resources or use materials according to the exceptions for educational institutions as outlined in the Copyright Act of Canada. 

Copyright Collective Societies

There are a number of copyright collective societies in Canada who administer the rights of copyright owners for materials such as music, television and radio, videos, etc. Collectives can grant permission to use their works and set the conditions for that use. Some collective societies are affiliated with foreign societies which allows them to represent foreign copyright owners as well.


Content contained in this "Seeking Permissions" section of the NSCAD Copyright Guide has been obtained with permission from the Nova Scotia Community College Copyright Subject Guide.