Edited by Kaarina Mikalson
First of all, figure out where the author(s) in question worked and published, or where the work in question was published. Copyright resources will differ based on country, region, and language. Locate archives, libraries, or collections that contain fonds or collections for the author(s) you are working with. Look into copyright databases for the country or region in question (more details on that below).
Documenting your research
Make sure to keep a written record of your research process, including any contact (emails, etc) you have had with archives, libraries, copyright societies and databases, or special collections. In the case that your research yields no results, this record will help prove that you have made a sufficient effort to locate the rightholders.
Watch: a database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields, run by the Harry Ransom Centre and University of Reading Library.
Copyright Renewal Database: this database makes searchable the copyright renewal records received by the US Copyright Office between 1950 and 1992 for books published in the US between 1923 and 1963, run by Stanford University.
Copyright Clearance Center: search for and obtain permission to use and share content from the world’s leading titles. Copyright Clearance Center offers annual copyright licenses and pay-per-use licensing services to meet the needs of organizations and institutions of every size and shape.
The Copyright Board of Canada provides a full list of copyright societies and organizations within Canada. There are copyright societies dealing with materials of all kinds, including audio-visual, multimedia, literary works, music, and visual arts.
There are many archives and collections across Canada that may contain fonds and information on your authors, including various universities and Library and Archives Canada. Contact the archivist for these collections and ask if they have any information on file about rightholders, heirs, or permissions.
Copibec: The Société québécoise de gestion collective des droits de reproduction, commonly referred to as COPIBEC, is a not-for-profit collective. COPIBEC’s mission is to act on behalf of rightsholders and manage the reproduction rights for their printed works (books, newspapers, periodicals). They also help users locate rightholders. The site has a searchable database and specific questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Copyright Board of Canada’s list of copyright societies and organizations also includes contact information for Francophone societies and organizations, including :
In terms of Francophone or Quebecois archives and collections, check out:
The Copyright Board of Canada provides detail information on what to do in the case of unlocatable copyright holders. If you wish to use a published work in which copyright subsists and if you satisfy the Board that you have made reasonable efforts to locate the copyright owner and the owner cannot be located, the Board can issue a non-exclusive licence authorizing you to do what you wish to do. You must submit an application in writing. Details on the application process can be found on the unlocatable copyright holders page.
It is best to keep a written record of your research process, including any contact you have had with archives, libraries, copyright societies and databases, or special collections. This record will help prove that you have made a sufficient effort to locate the rightholders.