Locating Copyright Owners

To get permission to use a copyrighted work, you must first identify the copyright owner. This can be challenging since copyright ownership may transfer over time. 

How do I find a copyright owner?

Start your search by identifying the relevant copyright licensing organization. They manage permissions for copyright owners in certain fields and may be able to give you permission. If you cannot get permission from a copyright licensing organization, you can contact the copyright owner. However, it may be challenging to find a copyright owner.

Want to use a book or journal article?

Start with the publisher’s website. Authors often transfer their copyright to the publisher. Publishers usually have a “Rights & Permissions” or “Permissions” department that can assist you in getting permission. If the publisher does not own the copyright, they may put you in touch with the author or copyright owner.

Want to use an artwork?

Start with the Artists Rights Society. You can also contact galleries or auction houses that have shown the work. They may be able to share contact information with you or pass your request along to the artist directly.

Want to use music? 

You may need to contact many owners. Composers, publishers, and recording companies may each own a different layer of copyright to the musical work. Start with the music publisher and recording company.

Want to use film? 

You may need to contact many owners as well. Writers, producers, and distributors may each control a particular set of rights to the film. Start with the production company. For more help in locating copyright owners, please see our list of resources below.

What do I do if I cannot find a copyright owner? 

  • Consider using an alternative work. Is there something else that you can use to illustrate your point or that will fit as well as the original work? 
  • Alter your intended use and reevaluate it for fair use. You might be able to use less of the work or limit the distribution.

Resources for Locating Copyright Owners 

These resources can help you in locating a copyright owner.



  • The WATCH File – A database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in creative fields. 
  • Publishers Marketplace – A searchable database of agents, editors, publishers, packagers, and writers.


  • Photographer’s Index – A directory for photographers, stock photography houses, and professional associations.