Working with Copyright–Protected Materials in a Digital Environment






Securing Permissions

Once we have determined the assumed copyright holder, our next step is to make personal contact to request permission. In the early years of this project we first contacted copyright holders by simply mailing them permissions packets (described below). However, we were not satisfied with the number of signed permissions we were receiving relative to the number of packages sent out. We therefore decided to change our procedure and initially make personal contact with the copyright holder, or someone in the copyright holder's organization, prior to sending out the permissions packet. By doing this we are able to confirm that the entity that we contact is indeed the document's copyright holder. Furthermore, we establish a relationship with a specific person to whom we can address the permissions packet, thereby ensuring that the package arrives in the hands of an appropriate person who is already familiar with us and our project. In this process we also identify a specific person we can contact to follow up.

Our preferred method of initial contact is by telephone. We explain our purpose and ask to speak to someone responsible for copyright permissions. When we reach someone who will discuss our request, we explain who we are and the nature of our project. We try to learn about the organization's policies in regard to making their material available online in a research database.

PFA's Permission Packets

Based upon contact research, we compile customized "permissions packets" that include a cover letter explaining who we are, the nature of the CineFiles project, and the objective of obtaining copyright permission. A permissions packet also contains a list of the copyright holder's documents currently in our database; a permission form for signature; a self-addressed, stamped envelope for return of the signed permission form; and a set of sample pages taken from the CineFiles website showing the actual screens a researcher would see when researching a given film title. 

When we receive the copyright holder's signed permission form, we enter this information in the Filemaker Pro digital rights management database. We change the copyright holder's status in our CineFiles database so that the copyright holder's documents (and all their future documents if blanket permission is given) are viewable by users of our CineFiles site on the World Wide Web.