Macalester Copyright Resurces

Fair Use vs Obtaining Permission

In many cases, you can make an argument that your education-related use of copyrighted material meets “fair use” criteria, allowing you to use the material without specifically requesting permission or paying use fees.  The following resources can help you to evaluate whether your use meets educational fair use criteria.

How to Obtain Permission

When the criteria for Fair Use cannot be met, permissions should be obtained from the copyright owner.  Sometimes, locating the owner is simple; other times it requires more detective work.  Depending on the type of work—photograph, book, article, lyrics, video clip—one would need to search in different locations.  For more information on how to find the copyright owner, who may or may not be the original creator of the work, see:

Most websites or databases will have clearly stated policies on how to obtain permission to use their materials.  A recent example involves a faculty member asking for permission to use materials in a forthcoming book.  This involved using Vatican materials, and on their website was a clear explanation of what was required.

When requesting permission, please keep a close record of your correspondence and retain information once permission is given. For sample permission letters, see:

Human Subjects

If your project includes the use of Human Subjects, you must consult with Institutional Review Board for permission. See the Macalester Employee Handbook section 12.6. Types of resources that require additional permissions include:

  • Audio interviews
  • Images of children – if the subject is under age 18 (the age of consent), consent from the parent or guardian is required