Copyright Support

Permissions and Licensing

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While copyright law includes limitations on exclusive rights for certain uses (for example, fair use provisions as specified in Section 107), in many scenarios permission and possible licensing fees will be required in order to use another person’s copyrighted work. Attribution is not a substitute for permission. In most cases, you will need to locate the copyright owner and request permission.

There are many resources for finding copyright owners online.

Publishers, institutions, and individual organizations each have their own procedures and requirements for granting permission to users of their works. Once contact is made with the rightsholders, specific terms and permissions will be arranged and documented through issuance of a letter agreement to the permission seeker. Fees may or may not be set, depending on the type of use being requested for the copyrighted work.

If the rightsholder is unknown or uncontactable, the work is considered an orphan work. The work, even without a known rightsholder, still has copyright protection. Using orphaned works can be risky if a previously unavailable owner resurfaces. As long as the copyright term is still in effect, the rights holder will still have standing in an infringement case. To address the problem of orphan works, the U.S. Copyright Office has released the Orphan Works Report  which includes the “Reasonably Diligent Search Requirement” in its set of recommendations for using orphan works.

The following are additional resources for seeking permissions and learning about orphan works:

Many publishers, from small to large, offer sample permission letters or contracts on their websites. Permission is granted (or denied) based on multiple factors including intended use type (commercial, research, education, personal), and amount of copyrighted material requested for use. Fees, if applicable, will usually be based on similar parameters. Permissions allowance can take place in articles, book reviews and similar scholarly output, but a focus is placed on permissions in relation to monograph and book length publications.

Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) facilitates clearing copyright for individuals, institutions, and organizations. CCC offers various ways to obtain permission for copyright protected materials to use or share.  For example, CCC's Pay-Per Use service allows instructors to get permission to photocopy and share materials as class handouts, course packs, and content in learning management systems. To search the CCC catalog or to get cost estimates visit

Canvas is SMU’s online learning management system (LMS). When posting materials in Canvas it is essential to be compliant with copyright law. For purposes of instruction, copyright law allows certain exemptions for educational purposes outlined in Section 107 (Fair Use) and Section 110 (“face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution exemptions”).

Panopto is a powerful way to create, edit, store, and share videos that integrate seamlessly into your Canvas courses. Videos can include interactive content and quizzes, as well as be placed within playlists and folders to your specifications. Panopto’s terms of use are similar to those of Canvas. Users may not submit material that is copyrighted or protected by other rights without express permission to do so from the rightful owner.

U.S. Copyright law allows certain exemptions in order to provide access to works while not creating a financial disadvantage to work creators. Canvas posting policy states that users may not post works that violate “the copyright or intellectual property or privacy rights of others.” When selecting materials to post in Canvas, it is best to consider the following best practices:

  1. Use a lawfully obtained copy of the work, and only a small portion. Sharing copyrighted materials for instruction should never be a means to circumvent purchasing the work.
  2. Use materials owned by SMU Libraries. These items are legally obtained. Most of the library e-resources (databases, e-books) come with licensing that allows posting in Canvas. E-books purchased by the libraries have licensing options for multiple users. (Note: there may be certain exceptions with specific databases so confer with your subject librarian to confirm)
  3. Link to online external materials. Do not repost documents, images, or other media if copyright status is unclear or permission has not been granted. You are risking possible infringement.
  4. When in doubt, contact

Additional resources on copyright and learning management systems:

Rights Management Agencies serve multiple functions, granting licensing and setting fees so that rightsholders can receive compensation in the form of royalties for use of copyrighted works. Rights Management Agencies also monitor and settle for their respective artists copyright suits and claims of infringement.

Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) handle licensing for works that users seek to perform publicly. PROs offer different types of licensing and fees depending on the event type, venue size, and profit/non-profit determination.

Under copyright law, certain exemptions are allowed for performance and display as delineated in Section 110 of the U.S. Copyright Law. Under this provision, instructors have some flexibility in utilizing copyrighted works for performance and display for teaching purposes in face-to-face instruction.

The Interlibrary Loan department fulfills requests from students, faculty, and staff for borrowing books, journals, articles, and other materials from other libraries. Libraries may send portions of copyrighted works to other libraries as long as the items are not borrowed as a means of avoiding purchase or subscription. 

ILL assumes all requests are for private research, scholarship, and research and pays appropriate licensing fees when and if needed to clear copyright for ILL-use. Requests for any purpose other than those mentioned above, including class postings, should not be fulfilled through ILL.

ILL adds a copyright statement to the delivery notice to alert the requester of copyright implications should the user decide to use it for a different purpose. In this case, the responsibility to seek copyright clearance or to remain compliant falls on the user.

To obtain materials for class use, including postings to Canvas, instructors should consider the following options:

  • Check the library holdings and journal databases to see if SMU has the item in question available. Library e-resources usually include licensing for classroom use.
  • Talk to your subject librarian about purchasing the item for the SMU library.
  • Talk to the SMU Bookstore about course packet options.

For further information regarding copyrighted materials and classroom instruction, see our Fair Use page For Instructors. 

For inquiries, e-mail the office at