Do you need permission for your use?
You will need to obtain permission if you determine that the material you want to use is still covered by copyright, and your use would not be considered a fair use, or fall within another statutory exception such as face-to-face teaching. For more information on these topics, see the Public Domain, Fair Use, and Copyright for Instructors pages.
Finding the Copyright Holder of a Work
For published works still under copyright, the copyright owner will be listed next to the copyright notice near the title page in most cases. Although the copyright notice is no longer required, many publishers still use it. In the unusual case where the copyright owner is unlisted and unknown and was published since 1978, try searching the US Copyright Registry. The Copyright Clearance Center may also help identify the copyright owner. Older materials may require more research into who created the work and when, in order to find the copyright owner. If the copyright owner cannot be located, the work has become "orphaned" and you may be unable to use the work. The problem of "orphan works" is currently being investigated by Congress, and several bills have been proposed, though none have yet become law.
Finding the copyright owner of non-print materials is much more difficult since most objects like photographs, sculptures, paintings, and buildings are unlikely to have the copyright owner's name and address stamped on them. For more information, see the Using Images page for some helpful databases.
Once you've found the copyright owner, you'll want to ask for permission to use the material. Certain entities, such as the Copyright Clearance Center, may also help you obtain permission to use a particular work.
Stanford University provides and excellent, detailed advice page on gaining copyright permissions.
For more information on obtaining permission to reuse copyrighted materials, please visit these websites:
Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office (an excellent site for complex and non-print permissions)
College of DuPage Library (has many addresses for non-print permissions)
University of Texas (another excellent site)
Sample Letters Requesting Permission to Reproduce Copyrighted Material