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Copyright Guidelines for Staff & Students of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (WITS): Applying for Permission (Personal Purposes)

This LibGuide provides definitions, legislation and procedures for copyright clearance for teaching and research purposes.

How to apply for permission

It is best to email the rightsholders, as it is quicker than faxing or posting a letter to them.  Check the Web for contact details for publishers, if it is not available on the publication or work you wish to copy from.

When writing for permission, give the full bibliographic details of the book, journal, etc. (i.e. author, title, chapter or article title, volume number, issue no. date, ISBN or ISSN numbers, country of publication, etc.)

Explain why you need permission.  If it is for research or educational  or non-commercial purposes, state this and stress that it is not for any commercial gain.  If it is to be included in a publication, CD, DVD, etc.  for commercial purposes, tell them, so they know how their material will be used.

If they respond with a charge, you will need to decide whether you want to copy the material or not.  If the fee is reasonable, arrange to pay it.  If not reasonable, try negotiating a better price with the rightsholder.

If you do not receive a response, do not assume that permission has been granted.  You need written permission before going ahead.  If you have tried a number of times and still get no response, but absolutely have to use the material in your research or book, then you will have to decide on the risk involved if you do use it without permission. You may consider including a notice in your work stating that you have tried several times to get permission but am not able to trace the rightsholder. Then invite the rightsholder or anyone who knows the whereabouts of the publisher to come forward to discuss the payment of copyright fees.  Alternatively, try finding similar material that is free or out of copyright. 

Where to apply?


  • To use large sections of text, e.g. quotations, standard examples, formulae, methods, etc., apply to the publisher or directly to the author, if it is unpublished.


  • To include well-known statements, expressions or ‘coined’ phrases made by others, apply to the person who made those statements, or to the publisher of the work which includes those particular words.


  • Material from unpublished material – apply to the authors, creators or custodians


  • Material from published printed works, e.g. books, journals, magazines, workbooks with practical exercises, etc. - apply directly to the publishers.


  • Material from newspapers – apply to the editor of the newspaper


  • Notices, brochures, posters, charts, menu charts, calendars, maps, ephemeral publications/leaflets, information leaflets in medicines/products, religious notices, etc. – apply to the organization, association, alternatively, the printers, producers or publishers, as the case may be.


  • Original images, artworks, posters, graphic or architectural designs, models, computer-generated artworks/designs, etc. - apply to the creators or custodians (if applicable, e.g. galleries, permanent exhibitions, etc.). If printed in a publication, apply to the publishers. 


  • Internal brochures, annual reports, surveys, corporate newsletters, corporate documents, policy documents, letterheads, etc. from corporate or non-corporate organizations/associations, etc. – apply to the Director, Publications Manager or Chairperson.


  • Sheet music, audiotapes, digital music, CDs, music DVDs, etc. – apply to the Producers, Suppliers or Publishers, as the case may be.


  • Original photographs (printed and digital) - apply to the photographer, photographic studio, or custodian (if applicable, e.g. library, archive, etc.).


  • Computer software, games or other programs - apply to the software producers or licensors.


  • Material from the Internet – apply to the webmasters or permissions/publications managers on the specific web site, if provided.


  • Out of print publications – apply to the publisher first, alternatively, directly to the author if you have his/her contact details. (Copyright reverts back to the author when a work is out of print)


  • E-Databases, e-books, etc. – apply to the electronic publishers, suppliers or licensors.


  • E-mails, e-letters, e-documents, etc. – apply to the authors/creators, or electronic publishers/producers, as the case may be.


  • Hymns – apply to the publisher or Christian Copyright Licensing Agency in Cape Town. (Tel. 021-975-1393).


  •  Films, videos, video clips, CDs, DVDs, etc. – apply first to the Producers/Suppliers, alternatively, to the Directors, as there may be a number of rights-owners.


  • Taped broadcasts – apply to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, MNET, ETV or individual community broadcasters.