How do I gain permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites?

Gaining copyright permission is very important when sharing content online. This step-by-step guide by Debbie McDonnell from Naomi Korn Associates will help you to understand when you need to ask for permission to use content you do not own the rights to and how to go about asking and documenting that process.

© Naomi Korn Associates, 2022

How do I gain permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites?

Step-by-step guide

Most material you want to use on social media and websites is protected by copyright such as images, artworks, text, music, or videos. It is very important to gain copyright permission when sharing content online to avoid infringement claims. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube stipulate you must have permission to upload copyrighted material in their terms of use.

The following eight-step infographics will help you understand how to gain permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites.

A step-by-step guide as described in section Eight-step guide to gaining permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites section

 

Eight-step guide to gaining permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites.

Step 1: Allocate sufficient resources
Step 2: Identify the material
Step 3: Check whether the material is protected by copyright
Step 4: Consider how you want to use the in-copyright material
Step 5: Find out who created the material and the current rights holder(s)
Step 6: What happens if you cannot find the right holder? Alternatives?
Step 7: Send a request to the rights holder
Step 8: Finalise permission: get written evidence

 

Step 1

Step 1 of the eight-step guide to gaining permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites as described in Step 1 section

Step 1: Allocate sufficient resources

‘Resources’ include staff time, administration costs and potential licence fees.

 

Step 2:

Step 2 of the eight-step guide to gaining permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites as described in Step 2 section

Step 2: Identify the material

Pinpoint exactly what you want to use such as images, artworks, text, music, videos or other content.

 

Step 3

Step 3 of the eight-step guide to gaining permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites as described in Step 3 section

 

Step 3: Check whether the material is protected by copyright

Creative content is automatically protected by copyright, even if there is no copyright symbol. Copyright usually protects material during the lifetime of the creator of the material plus 70 years after their death. There can be more than one copyright holder. For music, there could be one for the musical composition, one for the lyrics and one for the recording. If the material is no longer protected by copyright, you do not need permission.

 

Step 4

Step 4 of the eight-step guide to gaining permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites as described in Step 4 section

 

Step 4: Consider how you want to use the in-copyright material

How would you ideally like to use the material and what are your minimum needs? It may be better to ask for wider permissions to avoid repeat requests but you should be prepared to scale back if needed. For example, you could request permission to reproduce the material on all social media platforms rather than just one. It is also advisable to request use for a particular purpose, rather than a particular duration to avoid being required to remove the content from social media or your website when the licence duration has expired.

 

Step 5

Step 5 of the eight-step guide to gaining permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites as described in Step 5 section

 

Step 5: Find out who created the material and the current rights holder(s), including their contact details

This can be the most time consuming step in the process. The creator or the creator’s employer is the original rights holder and may still own the rights. Check any contracts with suppliers to ascertain whether copyright remained with the supplier or was transferred to your organisation, There may be information about the rights holder on the material itself, for example a credit line, copyright statement or metadata embedded in the digital file.

 

Step 6

Step 6 of the eight-step guide to gaining permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites as described in Step 6 section

Step 6: What happens if you cannot find the rights holder?

If the creator or rights holder is not found using step 5, you could look for alternative material which is openly licensed or where the rights holder is known. Otherwise, you will need to carry out reasonable searches to find the rights holder. If the rights holder cannot be found after a diligent search, the material is classed as an Orphan Work. You should assess the risk of publishing orphan works as you could receive an infringement claim despite your reasonable searches. There is the option of paying for an orphan works licence to protect against infringement claims.

 

Step 7

Step 7: Send a request to the rights holder

You should try to include the following in your request:

  • details of your organisation including its mission
  • identify the copyrighted material you want to use (Step 2)
  • clarify how you want to use the material (step 4)
  • request permission in writing including confirmation that they are the legal copyright owner of the material or are otherwise entitled to grant permission
  • potentially provide a deadline to reply allowing at least two weeks. Some rights holders welcome a deadline, others find it annoying.

If the rights holder does not reply, you need to go back to step 6.

 

Step 8

Step 8: Finalise permission

You need to retain written evidence of any permission granted or successful attempts to contact the rights holder and diligent searches. This evidence will be essential in the event of any dispute.

 



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How do I find rights holders for content I want to share?

This article by Chris Sutherns will provide you with best practice guidance for clearing rights to use others’ works online, allowing you to identify which works require permission and how to go about it.

 

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Published: 2022


Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "How do I gain permission to use in-copyright material on social media and websites? (2022) by Debbie McDonnell, Naomi Korn Associates supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0




 
 


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