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Obtaining Copyright Permissions

Explains how to find copyright holders and get permission to use different 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.

When to Seek Permission

Remember that you do not need permission if you are using something that is not copyrightable or is in the public domain. You also don't need permission 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, such as fair use. 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 provides an abundance of streaming film to the U-M community for use in instruction, research, and personal interest. This guide provides information about the rich variety of databases that are available for use, and how to request streaming for specific documentaries or feature films. 

Instructors may place streaming film requests. We can provide help adding film links on Canvas course sites if necessary. Please use this form to submit streaming film requests. When submitting a request it's important to remember this process can take two weeks or more.

Instructors can also assign specific films in our physical collections by placing titles on reserve for students to watch in the Askwith Media Library. Please contact the Askwith Media Library staff to make reserve requests at or (734) 764-5360.

Please note that public performances rights (PPR) of films require the appropriate permissions from the filmmaker/s or production company. While some titles in the collection come with PPR, the library does not purchase additional PPR. For more details, see the Show a Movie on Campus webpage, and/or reach out to the film's production company. 

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.

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.