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Library Research Guides

Obtaining Copyright Permissions

This guide explains how to obtain permission to use copyrighted works.

Copyright Questions?

The University of Michigan Library Copyright Office provides help with copyright questions for University of Michigan faculty, staff and students. Please email us with questions or visit our website for more information.

Legal Advice

The information presented here is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Michigan, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

If you require legal advice in your personal capacity, the lawyer referral services operated by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan may be helpful to you.

Copyright Basics

Remember that you do not need permission if you are using something that is not copyrightable or is in the public domain, or if you are using it in a way that does not implicate one of the rights of copyright holders or is permitted by a user’s right. For more information on these topics, please consult Copyright Basics.

Sources of Public-Licensed Audiovisual Works

Films the University of Michigan Library Has Licensed

Streaming Films for University of Michigan Courses

The University Library can stream complete films for which we have acquired permission or license on instructors' class Canvas sites. This process requires the library to look for the rights holder for each individual film and determine if permission for streaming can be granted or if a license is available for purchase. Finding the rights holders for foreign films can be particularly difficult, and the cost for streaming rights may be prohibitive. We are currently limiting requests to films that are required viewing for the class. Please use this form to submit requests. 

If streaming of a complete film cannot be arranged, streaming clips from the film may be a viable option for instructors. For questions related to Library streaming of clips please contact Jeffrey Pearson, (734) 763-3758, jwpearso@umich.edu.

Another option for instructors is to place Askwith Media Library material on reserve for students to watch in-house. The AML has 10 viewing stations that can accommodate up to 4 students each. Please contact the Askwith Media Library to make reserve requests at askwithmedia@umich.edu or (734) 764-5360.

For the full range of services offered by the Askwith Media Library, please visit the AML website.

Netflix Educational Screening Policy

Netflix allows one-time educational screenings of some Netflix Original documentaries. For more information, see Netflix's policy on Educational Screenings of Documentaries.

Collective Management Organizations for Audiovisual Works

The following organizations issue licenses for public performance or display of audiovisual works.

Film Studios and Distributors

If you want to license a work or a right not covered by licenses from the collective management organizations listed above, going directly to the studio or the distributor is another option. For instance, if you are seeking a license for clips or stills from a studio film, it is common to get that license from the studio. Licensing departments for many major studios and distributors are linked in the list below.

  • 20th Century Fox Clip Licensing Department (phone only): (310) 369-3605

Book on Licensing for Audiovisual Works

Other Rights in Audiovisual Works

Many audiovisual works contain "layers" of copyrights and other rights that may be controlled by separate rightsholders. In some cases, (e.g., when you obtain a public performance license from a licensor such as Criterion or Swank) the licensor provides all the rights you need. In other cases, a single licensor may not be able to provide all the rights you need. For example, in some cases, a studio may not be able to license the background music in a film clip.

Actor Releases

Privacy and publicity rights in many states require that filmmakers obtain releases from a film's actors in order for the film to be distributed. If the actor is a SAG-AFTRA member, the terms and rates for such releases are often determined by union rules.