Locating a Copyright Owner

If you want to get permission from a copyright owner you will need to consider who owns or controls the rights in the material.

This person could be:

  1. the author of the material or his heirs, or
  2. the author’s employer, or
  3. anyone else to whom the rights in the material have been sold, or otherwise transferred or exclusively licensed, or
  4. a collecting society which has been asked to collect fees on behalf of the rights holder.

Copyright is an automatic right and no UK registers exist to locate the author or right holder in a work. If you wish to trace a rights holder, there is no official body that can help you directly, but you could try the following:

  1. Contact the appropriate collecting society (see Copyright Contacts)
  2. Contact the author’s publisher, agent, representative etc.
  3. Carry out internet searches on various search engines
  4. Establish any family connection to authors / owners
  5. Use the WATCH file, (Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders) – a joint project of the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom, and the University of Austin, Texas, USA. WATCH holds a list of some right holder contacts for some authors and artists

Use of a copyright protected work without its owner’s permission may be a civil infringement and/or a criminal offence depending on the circumstances.

If you cannot trace the copyright owner you should take legal advice before using any material that may be in copyright.

This business advice article is subject to Crown Copyright © 2012

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