Identifying Copyright Holders
Our first step in obtaining copyright clearance is determining
to the best of our ability who, or what entity, holds copyright
to the document we wish to display. When the document's
source is a recognized publishing entity, such as a book
publisher, a magazine, or a newspaper, we begin with the
assumption that the publisher holds the copyright. We confirm,
clarify, or revise this assumption according to what we
learn in our initial contact with the entity we first assume
to be the document's source.
Documents that have ambiguous sources or are not cited must
be researched on a case-by-case basis. Basic clues may help
identify the origin of the document. For example,
the copyright permissions analyst might identify the typographic
style of a particular newspaper and verify publication of
the article in question using periodical indexes.
The analyst might identify the original producer of a film
to verify the source of press kits or souvenir materials,
and so on.
Researching Contact Information
Our next step in the permissions process is doing the
research necessary to establish the contact information
(address, phone number, and e-mail) for the assumed copyright
holder. We enter the obtained information in our digital
rights management database.
To facilitate workflow, we currently maintain digital rights
management data in two information systems. The first is
a Filemaker Pro database from which we produce permissions
packets and track in-progress actions on securing rights.
The second is the CineFiles database, a Sybase SQL database,
where a table is populated by migrating pertinent data from
the Filemaker Pro database at regular intervals.
Contact information research most often involves an Internet
search for an organization's website, where locating an
appropriate e-mail address and/or a phone number is usually
fairly straightforward. If necessary, we consult information
sources such as the masthead of a newpaper or the back of
a book's title page to help identify the publisher's full
name and address or location.
Researching U.S. Copyright Office Records
One can also use the services of the U.S. Copyright Office
to research the copyright status of a work.
Their records are open for inspection and search by the
public. In addition, the Copyright Office offers a record
search service at the hourly rate of seventy-five dollars for each hour or
fraction of an hour. For information on searching the Copyright
Office records concerning the copyright status or ownership
of a work, see Circular 22 "How to Investigate the
Copyright Status of a Work," and Circular 23, "The
Copyright Card Catalog and the Online Files of the Copyright
Office." (These are available on the Copyright Office
Copyright Office records cataloged from January 1, 1978,
to the present are available for searching in machine-readable
form, including registration and renewal information and
recorded documents. This search feature is available on
the Copyright Office website cited above.
"How to Investigate the Copyright Status of the Work,"
Circular 22 published by the U.S. Copyright Office, offers
several cautionary pieces of information concerning the
limitations of copyright searches through their office.
For example, before 1978, unpublished works were entitled
to protection under common law without the need for registration.
For later works, registration can be made at any time during
a long period of twenty-eight years or more. For more information,
consult the publication and/or website.
Rights and Permissions Companies and Consultants
Organizations and companies exist whose business is to
clear copyright for use by various parties. One of the largest
among these is the Copyright Clearance Center, a not-for-profit
company established in 1978 at the suggestion of Congress.
The mission of this company is to provide copyright owners
and users of copyrighted materials with an efficient means
for the exchange of permissions and royalties. The Copyright
Clearance Center acts as an agent for thousands of registered
publishers and hundreds of thousands of authors and creators.
Information is found on their website, http://www.copyright.com/,
where a specific section addresses the needs of those in
academia and libraries.
There are also many individual consultants, companies,
and attorneys who can be hired to research copyright status
and/or obtain clearances. Many libraries and other institutions
offer contact information for them, and Wweb searches are
also a good way to locate such researchers.