The first step to requesting permissions is to find the copyright owner. Because authors sometimes transfer their copyrights to publishers during the publication process, the copyright owner is often the publisher and not the original creator. Please visit the publisher website to locate information on permissions requesting. Some publishers have developed tools to help you locate the right person to ask for permissions. For example:
Penguin Publishing Group advertises a number of ways to locate copyright owners and request permissions, including a Titles Database
Many scholarly publishers use RightsLink, by the Copyright Clearance Center, to handle basic permissions requests.
Oxford University Press instructions for Rightslink.
Once you've located the copyright owner, and if they do not have a proscribed method of accepting permissions requests (like RightsLink), you should remember to include as much information about your proposed use as possible in your request. Below are several key points of information to include:
For further suggestions on requesting permission please see the How to Obtain Permission guide from the US Copyright Office.
In some instances, you may not be able to identify the copyright holder. If this occurs, you may have encountered an orphan work. Unfortunately, there is currently no legal solution to using orphan works other than finding a substitute resource or reanalyzing your use to make a fair use determination.
Resources for Requesting Permissions:
An overview of procedures for contacting and requesting permission from a copyright owner to use a copyrighted work.
University of Texas Libraries page provides steps on the permission process. This page also includes sample permissions forms.
Created by the Copyright Clearance Center, this resource is used by scholarly publishers to handle permissions request.
Writers Artists and Their Copyright Holders is a database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields.