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Copyright for Library Staff: Copyright Permission

A copyright guide for NIC library staff to use as a reference

Copyright Permission

If you determine that your use of copyrighted material does not qualify as fair dealing, you will need to ask permission from the copyright holder to use the material. It is best to contact the copyright holder via email or mail so there is a written record of the request, if you receive permission verbally please follow up with a confirmation email so we can keep proof that permission was granted.

Before you ask permission, you should try to identify the copyright holder of the work. This is usually the original creator of the work, however in academic publishing the publisher usually holds the copyright, and may grant copyright permission. If you wish to use material from an academic journal, start by checking the publisher website, and see if they have a copyright permission process for you to follow.

If you are asking permission from an individual or organization that does not have their own copyright process, you should draft a permission letter. This permission letter should include the following information:

  1. Who: Introduce yourself (eg. I am a library technician at North Island College)
  2. What: Indicate what exactly you are asking permission to use, being as specific as possible. Do you plan to use the whole work, or just a part? Will you be adapting the original? Consider including copies of the material if possible
  3. Where/How: How will you be using the material? Specify if you will be using it commercially or non-commercially, and exactly how it will be distributed. Will it be used online? published in a journal/book? 
  4. When: State how long you plan to use the work (eg. one semester, one year, indefinitely)
  5. Why: explain why you are contacting that person/organization for permission. For example "I am writing to you because your company published this material/ you are the original author of the work". You are trying to verify that they are the copyright holders and are able to grant you permission.

An example of a copyright permission letter:


I am a library technician at North Island College Library, on Vancouver Island BC. Our library has put together an online guide promoting the book “21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act”, and we would like to ask permission to use the images from your Meme Project ( as part of this guide. This guide is available on the Library’s webpage which is freely accessible by the public, so our use of these images would be non-commercial in nature. We would provide a full attribution to the original artist of the work as well as the Meme Project, and the images would not be adapted or altered. We do not currently have an end date for when this guide will be taken down, so we are seeking permission to use them on an ongoing basis.

We understand that the meme project uses artwork from a variety of artists and that these artists maintain copyright of the original images. We are wondering if your arrangement with the original artists allows these images to be shared and used in the manner outlined above? If so, would you be willing to allow us to use these images in our guide? If you would like to see our guide, you can view it here: 

Thank you for your consideration