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Providing easy access to help navigate the ins and outs of Canadian Copyright Law. Information contained herein is just that, and should not be a substitute for legal advice.

I want to obtain my own permissions. Where do I start?

When the nature or the extent of copying that you wish to do falls outside of "fair dealing," the onus is on the user 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 for a book
  • 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

The flowchart below outlines when you may and may not need to seek permissions. It is important to note that since the passing of the Copyright Modernization Act that you may not break a digital lock to copy material.

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 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.

Copyright Clearance Center

The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) is a global rights broker for print and online content, from books, journals and newspapers to blogs and images.

CCC works in a fashion similar to Access Copyright by charging institutions an annual fee to cover all copying done on campus.

However, CCC will also process one-off requests for copyright clearance to copy individual works.


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