Permissions and Publishing

Getting 'permissions' and 'clearing rights' is another useful tool in a school's managing copyright kit.

Key questions about permissions

As a User: Do I have permission to use or re-use the materials I have found?

As a Distributor: Do I have permission to send these materials to other people using the digital platform I have chosen?  And will that permission still be OK if, for instance I decide to put the presentation onto another, different platform with a different audience such as the school website?  For instance permission to use a piece of music for a school podcast may be granted but that doesn't necessarily mean you have a right to then use the music for making a film or as the background to a game. Having permission to use a photograph on a website doesn't neccessarily mean you can use it in a book.  

As a Creator: Have I permission to adapt or modify or mix the material I have found into my own creative ‘thing’. If I publish my ‘thing’ how should I acknowledge the third-party materials I have used?

One of the most annoying and negative experiences to deal with is having used a piece of material - say a music track for a children's film - which later turns out really well and you find that it can't be entered into a competition or an arts festival or whatever, as the music is 'in copyright' and 'clearance wasn't obtained. Always difficulty to retro engineer with children's work - the learning moment has moved on.

 You don’t always have to ask for permissions of course as sometimes they are given already:

  • those provided by fair dealing and education exceptions
  • those provided through licences for education use
  • those given through the terms and conditions provided by websites
  • those given if you purchase a subscription or buy a one-off licence
  • those given through an open licence

 But there are occassions when asking is the only way forward if you want to 're-use' someone else's copyright materials.

First thoughts about getting permissions

  • Have you permissions to use the image?
  • Think through the risks associated if you haven't
  • Consider if and how the work might be published or distributed by you/the school after it has been made.
  • Sometimes it’s very difficult to find out who to write to and sometimes the person doesn’t answer. Have you the time to wait? If they say ‘No!’ have you time to find alternatives?
  • What happens if someone says ‘No’ to a pupil? Is it part of learning in the real world or a confidence put-down?
  • Has the school a template letter for you to use?
  • Sometimes they request a fee. Have you a budget?
  • Sometimes the speed of the internet works and you send an email to someone and they reply and say, ‘That’s fine!’ – and that provides a 'good feeling' - but remember to save the emails safely.

 ... and if these scenarios aren't viable ... Have you an alternative?

Permissions and Clearance

Getting permissions by writing to an organisation or a person is sometimes a swift email but sometimes entails a long process with no guarantee that the result will  be what is required.

If you write for permissions it should be from the school – school headed notepaper, school name and address on email and use the school email. You will need to keep a copy of the letter or email. 


  • Clear information of the material you want clearance for – author, title, any reference numbers, weblink, etc.
  • The purpose you are going to use it for 1 - education, commercial/non-commercial.
  • The purpose you are going to use it for 2 - teaching resource, learning resource, www publishing
  • How technically you will use and publish it – what platform(s) - web, powerpoints, vle, dvd, etc.
  • The audience - class, year group, school, VLE, school community, whole world?

SCA IPR Toolkit has two templates: for a Permissions Letter and for a Permissions email which can easily be adapted for use by schools.

 Download from 'IPR Toolkit' source: 'Permissions letter'

 Download from IPR Toolkit' sopurce: 'Permissions email


 'Third party materials' are those materials that belong to someone else that may be used in a piece of work such as a digital image put into a website, a diagram put into a presentation or music used in a video. We come across them all the time - so much so that in films, tv, web, magazines, powerpoints and books they just become 'invisible'.

Commercial suppliers of copyright works, including some museums, have commercial rates which can be fixed according to:

  • the type of use
  • the purpose of use
  • for 'territorial' distribution; less if just UK, more for whole world
  • and sometimes how long it will be published for.

Paying for clearance or a licence to use materials is not usually a viable option for schools - but sometimes the charges are not 'high' and there may be projects where payments can be justified. These roganisations usually provide a licence for the 'restricted' use of the photograph, film, poem, music or whatever. In one instance a Primary school 'enterprise' project paid a few pounds for a licence to use music from a music publisher with an education service and this provided a 'real world of work' experience as well as letting the pupils use their chosen music as part of the activity.

No harm in asking. The answer isn't always 'No' and sometimes provides the added value of a conversation and encouragement for pupils. Even big names have been known to say 'OK' for school use.

Films are particularly complex to work out; the digital image you see/copy may be a copy of a copy of an original. Disentangling the rights for film - owner, director and music - is notoriously difficult.

Photographs can be tricky too. The 'durations' associated with older photographs are particularly complicated. See 'Durations' about half-way down 'What is Copyright?' in Section 1   Many older photographs are ‘orphans’ – which means their ownership is unknown and which makes it difficult or impossible to get permissions.


Open Education Resources and Rights Clearance

 Open Education Resource or OER is an international movement to encourage the publishing of education resources in such a way that they can be searched and found easily and that they are made available in such a way that they can be readily used without the impedance of requesting 'permissions' for use. More about OER in Section 2: 'Open Licences'

Contributory resource banks such as the NEN Gallery undertake a 'due care' process to ensure that the materials they provide to schools have permissions cleared before they are published for others to use.

‘Rights Clearance, Risk Management, Tracing Rights Holders, and due diligence.’

This longer and more detailed document - from the web2rights project - provides a detailed framework for project working and resource production where third-party materials are being used in the context of OER or 'Open Education Resources'

'Seeking Permission and Due Diligence' has a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC licence = you can use it but not for commercial purposes as long as you acknowledge the authors.  Please acknowledge 'Web2Rights, '

 Right click the hyperlink to download as a pdfseeking permission and due diligence paper.pdf 

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