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Author Rights and Copyright: Obtaining Permission

When Permission is Not Required

  • Works in the public domain may be freely used without permission. A work in the public domain is a work that is no longer protected by U.S. copyright law because copyright protection has expired. Works published before 1923 in the United States are in the public domain. The copyright term for works created after 1923 depends upon a number of factors, including date of publication and whether the copyright was renewed. See the Copyright Sliderule for determining whether a work is in the public domain.
  • Works created by U.S. government employees as part of their official duties receive no copyright protection. Works created by state and local government employees can be subject to copyright.
  • Works in which the creator granted a license that permits the the indended use. For example, Creative Commons licenses typically permit noncommercial uses so long as the users provide attribution, i.e., indicate who authored the work.
  • Ideas and facts are not copyright protected and may be used without permission.
  • Use that would qualify as “Fair Use.” See the Fair Use box.

When Permission is Required

Indended uses that usually require permission are:

  • Including photographs in a textbook.
  • Adapting a questionnaire or other measurement instrument and using in clnical practice or in a new work.
  • Posting another’s work to the internet.
  • Publishing a translation of a novel.
  • Using a student’s work in a new work.
  • Posting the final published version of an article on a faculty website.

How to Obtain Permission

Obtaining permission requires identifying the copyright holder, requesting permission, and providing attribution. The procedure for obtaining permission varies by the format of the copyrighted material.

Please see How to Get Permission from the joint Washington University Scholarly Communications website. This includes guidance on how to obtain permissions and templates with sample language to use for requesting permission.

Contact Cathy Sarli if you need assistance with obtaining permissions.

Attribution vs Permission

 Note: Providing credit or attribution for a copyrighted work is not a substitute for obtaining copyright permission. Responsible practice requires both.