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Home > Using Copyright > Required Information > Identify Owners

Identify Owners

Once you have established what you want to use and how you want to use it, you'll need to determine who owns the work. If you need to seek permission for your use, you'll need to contact the owner.

  • Copyright notice
    Many works protected by copyright contain a copyright notice (look for the word "Copyright" or the symbol ©). If there is a copyright notice on the work, the owner's name is listed. A copyright notice is not required to maintain copyright protection, so the absence of a notice does not mean the work is not copyrighted.
  • Creator of the work
    If there is no copyright notice on the work, try to identify who created the work. There may be a contact name or some other information that will be able to lead you to the owner.
  • Publisher
    It is important to remember that the person who created the work may not be the copyright owner. For example, many publishers ask authors to assign the copyright to the publisher. In such cases, the publisher is the copyright owner rather than the person who wrote the article.

    If the work is published, take note of both the name of the creator of the work as well as any information you may have on the publication in which it appeared. You may have to contact both the creator and the publisher to determine who owns the work or has the right to grant permission to use it.

Search Through Copyright Office records
Individuals may search these records at the Library of Congress or pay the Copyright Office to conduct searches. The Copyright Office also has publication that provides detailed information on this topic: Copyright Office Circular No. 22: How to investigate the copyright status of a work.

    Pre-1982: The Copyright Office maintains records of registered works in the "Catalog of Copyright Entries (CCE)" for the years 1891-1982. The CCE is in printed format for works registered from 1891 through 1978, and in microfiche format for the years 1979-1982.

    Post-1982: Current: Records from 1982 through the present are in a searchable on-line catalog.

What if you don't have all this information?
This is not uncommon. Use whatever information you have as a starting point.

    Title or Author: If you have some information about a work, such as the title of an article or the name of the author, you may be able to find information on the publication by searching through the UW libraries' databases. There are many databases available for a wide variety of periodicals. UW librarians can assist you in identifying an appropriate database to search.

No Identification Data?
If you cannot identify the author, owner or date of creation or publication of a work, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to determine if the work is still protected by copyright and if so, who holds the rights to the work.

    If your project involves using such works, you need to proceed with caution. If your use seems to be a use that does not require permission (such as classroom use or fair use) you may be able to use the work. If the use appears to be one that requires permission, such as a publication or development of an unrestricted web site, it is recommended that you do not use works that you cannot clear the rights to use.


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Required Information
Required Information
Describe the Work
Define Your Use
>> Identify Owners
Determine Copyright Status
Consider Other Rights

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