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Copyright & IP @ Whitman: Tools & Seeking Permission




Permission from the Copyright Owner

  • Write to the copyright owner, detailing how the work will be used.  Sample letters (Columbia University) may help you get started.
  • Permission may be granted for free, or for fees ranging from modest to exorbitant.  Permission may also be declined.
  • If permission is denied or too costly, seek out similar resources instead.

Permission Vendors

  • The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) will seek permission on your behalf.  Fees differ for course packs, classroom handouts, library reserves and postings to course management systems; Copyright permission is automatically granted for works contained within the CCC database.

Musical Works:

  • ASCAP - American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
  • BMI - Broadcast Music, Inc.
  • SESAC - performance rights
  • Harry Fox Agency - source for mechanical rights associated with producing derivatives (i.e., "covers") of copyrighted works

Dramatic Works:

Motion Pictures:

  • Criterion Pictures USA - licenses non-theatrical, public performance rights for feature films; streaming available with Whitman ID through Penrose Library
  • Films on Demand - extensive documentary catalog; streaming available with Whitman ID through Penrose Library
  • Kanopy Videostreaming -  extensive film catalog; streaming available with Whitman ID through Penrose Library
  • Kino Lorber - world cinema, classics, documentaries & independent films
  • MPLC - Motional Picture Licensing Corporation
  • OnTheBoards.TV - contemporary performance films; streaming available with Whitman ID through Penrose Library 
  • SWANK - public performance licensing for non-profit and non-commercial use

Cartoons, Comics, Editorials:


Orphan works are those works for which there is no clear copyright owner, or the copyright owner cannot be found.

Orphan works are protected under copyright law, as are all intellectual and creative works.  Because of the lack of obvious ownership, it can be almost impossible to obtain copyright permission for orphan works.

If you have made every effort to find a copyright owner but either can't locate them or receive no response, you may be dealing with an orphan work.  Unfortunately, the work's status as an orphan work does not allow you to treat it any differently from other copyright protected material.

If you face this situation, you must either:

  • Reevaluate fair use.  If after a long search for the copyright holder you cannot find someone to give you permission to use the work, the "market effect" factor might need to be reevaluated.  Because the potential market for the content may potentially be unharmed by your use, you may be able to more generously evaluate fair use for the work.
  • Change the use of the orphaned content to fit within fair use.  By using only a portion of the work, or fewer copies, or limiting access to the work, you may be able to change the scope of the potential use to fit within the boundaries of fair use.

Resources for Orphan Works

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