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Locating Copyright Holders

By Attorney Lloyd J. Jassin

Getting Permission

If you intend to use someone's copyrighted work, unless the use is considered a fair use, you must obtain that person's written permission. Under federal copyright law, only the copyright owner or someone acting with the owner's authority, such as a publisher, can grant that permission. While not every unauthorized use of a copyrighted work is an infringement, whenever you use another person's words, illustrations, photographs, charts or graphs in your own work you must be sensitive to the risk of infringing that individual's copyright.

The following information is provided to help you plan your permission strategy and locate copyright holders more easily. For a more detailed approach, consult The Copyright Permission & Libel Handbook, by Jassin & Schechter (John Wiley & Sons).

Where to Begin. Begin your search with the copyright notice. The copyright notice identifies who owns the copyright. However, the copyright owner does not always have the authority to grant you permission. For permission to quote from a book, you must contact the publisher’s rights department. If the publisher has gone out of business, or the book is out of print, you’ll need to trace the author by doing a copyright search or contacting one of the authors’ organizations listed below.

It Takes Time. The permission process should begin when you start researching and preparing your work. Permission requests are often ignored, denied or lost. Unless the use is considered a fair use, your work cannot be published without proper permissions.

Use Common Sense. All sources of material you’ve borrowed or quoted from should be flagged and identified. Knowing where a particular quote, passage, or photograph came from will save you hours of work later on. And, remember, there may be multiple copyright owners of the material you want to use.

Locating Copyright Holders

Useful links and postal addresses to assist you identify and locate rights holders:

I. Trade & Professional Groups (A-Z)
II. Licensing Organizations & Searchable Databases
a) Authors
b) Photographers
c) Songwriters
d) Visual Artists
e) Motion Pictures
III. Online Copyright Permission Pages
a) Book Publishers
b) Playwrights
c) Magazines & Journals
IV. Search Copyright & Trademark Office Records
a) Search Copyright Office Records
b) Search Trademark Office Records
c) Intellectual Property Research Firms
V. Miscellaneous
Find A Grave
Online Telephone Directories
Vital Records (United States)


Advertising Photographers of America(APA)
PO Box 361309
Los Angeles, CA 90036
800-272-6264 (Tel.)

American Federation of Musicians (AF of M)
1501 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
212-869-1330 (Tel.)

American Medical Writers Association.
40 West Gude Drive, Suite 101
Rockville MD 20850-1192
301-294-5303 (Tel.) (e-mail)

American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
1501 Broadway, Ste. 302
New York, NY 10036
212-997-0947 (Tel.)

American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP)
150 North Second Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-451-ASMP (Tel.)
215-451-0880 (Fax)

The American Society of Picture Professionals
409 S. Washington Street
Alexandria, VA 22134
703-299-0219 (Tel.)
703-299-0219 (Fax) (e-mail)

Association of American Publishers (AAP)
71 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003-3004

Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc.
P.O. Box 237201
Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10003

The Authors Guild
31 East 28th Street, 10th floor
New York, NY 10016
212-563-5904 (Tel.)

Dog Writers Association of America, Inc.
DWAA, Secretary
173 Union Road
Coatesville, PA 19320 (e-mail)

The Dramatists Guild
110 West 44th Street, 7th floor
New York, NY 10036
212-398-9366 (Tel.)

Graphic Artists Guild (GAG)
90 John Street
New York, NY 10038-3202
212-791-0330 (Tel.)

Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA)
350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2309
New York, NY 10118-6293
212-244-1944 (Tel.) (e-mail)

Magazine Publishers of America
919 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022-3901
212-872-3700 (Tel.)

Museum Digital Library Collection
41 East 11 Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10023

National Association of Black Journalists
University of Maryland
8701-A Adelphi Road
Adelphi, Md. 20783-1716
301-445-7100 (Tel.)

National Cartoonists Society (NCS)
10 Columbus Circle, #1620
New York, NY 10019
212-627-1550 (Tel.)

National Writers Union (NWU)
National Office East
113 University Pl. 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10003
212-254-0279 (Tel.)
212-254-0673 (Fax) (e-mail)

Mystery Writers of America
17 E. 47th St., 6th floor
New York NY 10017
212-888-8171 (Tel.)
212-888-8107 (Fax)

PEN American Center
568 Broadway
New York, NY 10012-3225
212-334-1660 (Tel.) (e-mail)

Picture Agency Council of America (PACA)
P.O. Box 308
Northfield, MN 55057-0308
P.O. Box 308
800-457-PACA (7222) (Tel.)

Publishers Marketing Association (PMA)
627 Aviation Way
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310-372-2732 (Tel.)

Romance Writers of America
16000 Stuebner Airline Rd., Ste 140
Spring, TX 77379
832-717-5200 (Tel)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA)
PO Box 877
Chestertown MD 21620

Small Press Center (SPC)
20 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10026
212-764-7021 (Tel.)

Society of Children's Book Writers
& Illustrators (SCBWI)
8271 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048 USA
323-782-1010 (Tel.)
323-782-1892 (Fax) (e-mail)

Society of Illustrators

Society of Professional Journalists
National Journalism Center
3909 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317-927-8000 (Tel.) (e-mail)

Software & Information Industry Association
1090 Vermont Ave, NW, 6th floor
Washington, DC 20005
202-289-7442 (Tel.)
202.289-7097 (Fax)

Text and Academic Authors Assoc. Inc. (TAA)
Koquina Hall, #234
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersberg, FL 33701
813-553-1195 (tel.)

Toy Industry Association (TIA)
1115 Broadway
New York, NY 10010
212-675-1141 (Tel.)

Western Writers of America
209 E. Iowa
Cheyenne, WY. 82009 (e-mail)

Writers Guild of America, East, Inc. (WGA, East)
555 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
212-245-6180 (Tel.)

Writers Guild of America, West, Inc..
8955 Beverly Hills Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048-2455
310-550-1000 (Tel.)

Top of page

a. Authors
Publishers Marketplace

Publishers Marketplace has an excellent searchable database of agents, editors, publishers, packagers and writers

The Authors Registry
31 East 28th Street
New York, NY 10016
212-563-6920 (Tel.)

The Authors Registry maintains an extensive directory of authors, with contact addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, and e-mail addresses.

Copyright Clearance Center (CCC)
222 Rosewood Drive
Danvers, MA 01923
978-750-8400 (Tel.)

The CCC is a photocopying clearance house that collects permission fees for photocopying of books, journals, newsletters, newspapers and scientific monographs.

Copyright Licensing Agency CLC)
90 Tottenham Court Rd
London W1T 4LP
020 7631 5555 (Tel.)
020 7631 5500 (Fax) (e-mail)

CLA is a UK-based photocopy clearance organization that licenses users for copying extracts from books, journals and periodicals.
200 Mill Avenue South
Suite 400
Renton, WA 98055
425-430-4555 (Tel.)
425-227-6478 (Fax) is a web-based copyright clearance service that allows users to instantly reprint, reuse, and distribute content published on the Internet.

Publication Rights Clearinghouse (PRC)
113 University Pl. 6th Floor
New York, NY 10003
212-254-0673 (Tel.)

The Publications Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) is the National Writers Union's (NWU) online royalty collection agency for freelance writers.

The WATCH File
Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
P.O. Drawer 7219
Austin, TX 78713-7219
512-471-9119 (Tel.)

The WATCH file (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders) is a searchable online database containing the names and the addresses of rights holders or contact persons for authors (and artists). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

b. Photographers

Photographer’s Index
A comprehensive internet directory for photography. Search for photographers, stock photo houses and much more.

c. Songwriters (Composers & Lyricists)

ASCAP: Los Angeles
7920 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
213-883-1000 (Tel.)

ASCAP: New York
One Lincoln Plaza
New York, NY 10023
212-595-3050 (Tel.)

BMI: Los Angeles
8730 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90069
310-659-9109 (Tel.)

BMI: New York
320 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
212-586-2000 (Tel.)

10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
212-586-3450 (Tel.)

The ASCAP and BMI song title databases allows researchers to search by song, title, songwriter or publisher for information on songs and songwriters registered with these performing rights societies. If you don't know which society a writer belongs to, look at the liner notes that accompanied the CD or cassette. If a songwriter isn't registered with ASCAP, there's an excellent chance he or she is affiliated with BMI. If all else fails, contact SESAC.

Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA)
National Music Publishers' Assoc., Inc.
475 Park Ave. South
New York, NY 10016
646-742-1651 (Tel.)

HFA licenses musical compositions for use on records, tapes, CDS and computer chips. It also licenses musical compositions for use in audio/visual works including motion pictures, television programs, commercials and multi-media. HFA maintains a searchable database of 2 million songs called

Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI)
17201 NE Sacramento Street
Portland, OR 97230
503-257-2230 (Tel.)
800-234-2446 (Toll Free)

CCLI licenses permission to copy over 150,000 songs for congregational use.

d. Visual

Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO)
2008 Murray Ave, Suite D
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
412- 422-8533 (Tel.)

The AMICO Library is the compilation of digital multimedia documentation of works of art contributed by AMICO museum members. The AMICO Library is available on a subscription basis to institutions of higher education, public libraries, and museums.

Artists Rights Society (ARS)
536 Broadway, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10012
212-420-9160 (Tel.)

VAGA (Visual Artists and Galleries Association)
350 Fifth Avenue
Suite 6305
New York, NY 10118
(212) 736-6666 (Tel.)
(212) 736-6767 (Fax) (e-mail)

ARS and VAGA are artists' rights organizations that license reproduction rights to users of visual art on behalf of members. ARS represents the estates of many of the artists active in France in this century, including Kandinsky, Braque, Chagall and Miro. VAGA represents thousands of artists worldwide, from struggling artists to well-known names such as Robert Motherwell and Larry Rivers.

e. Motion Pictures

Searchable Motion Picture Databases:
Internet Movie Database

Motion Picture Studios:

Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC)
An independent copyright licensing service authorized by motion picture studios and independent producers to grant license for the public performances of home videos.

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a) Book Publishers

Academic Book and Journal Publishers:
A service of the Professional Center Library for Law and Management, Wake Forest University. Designed for teachers and scholars.

AcqWeb Directory of Publishers and Vendors
Compiled by AcqWeb. An international directory of publishers and vendors used by libraries. It links to publisher web sites and email addresses.

b) Playwrights

Searchable Theatre Databases:

Internet Theatre Database

Major Play Publishers:

Dramatists Play Services, Inc.
440 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016
212-683-8960 (Tel.)
212-213-1539 (Fax)

Dramatic Publishing Company
311 Washington St.
Woodstock, IL 60098
800-448-7469 (Tel.)
800-334-5302 (Fax)

Music Theatre International
545 Eigth Avenue
New York, NY 10018-4307
212-868-6668 (Tel.)
212-643-8465 (Fax)

Samuel French, Inc.
45 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10010-2751
212-206-8990 (Tel.)
212-206-1429 (Fax)

See also, The Dramatists Guild above.

c) Magazines & Journals

PubList is a searchable database of over 150,000 domestic and international print and electronic publications including magazines, journals, e-journals, newsletters, and monographs. It provides publisher addresses, editor contacts, circulation data, and ISSN numbers.

Top of page

Search U.S. Copyright Office Records (Post 1977)
A free online service of the United States Copyright Office

Search U.S. Copyright Renewal Database (1923 - 1963)
A free online service of Stanford University.
Note: The database includes ONLY book renewals.

b. Search the U.S. Trademark Office Records
A free online service of the United State Patents & Trademark Office

Trademark Assistance Center
United States Patent & Trademark Office
2900 Crystal Drive, Room 4B10
Arlington, VA 22202-3515
703-308-9000 (Tel.)
703 308-HELP (Tel.)

c. Intellectual Property Research Firms

•Government Liaison Services
200 North Glebe Road, Suite 321
Arlington, VA 22203
703-524-8200 (Tel.)
800-642-6564 (Toll Free) (e-mail)

•Thomson & Thomson
1750 K Street, N.W., Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006-2305
800-356-8630 (Tel.)

Leading professional copyright and trademark search firm


Find A Grave
Hit a dead end? Find A Grave is an online database containing the location of thousands of famous graves from around the world. If all else fails, write the cemetery office for information about next of kin.

•Online Telephone Directories (United States)
Find a person using the online White Pages. Find a business using the online Yellow Pages.

•Syndicated Newspaper Cartoonists, by Index
Daryl Cagles’ Pro Cartoonists Index contains hundreds of links to syndicated cartoonists.

•Vital Records Information (United States)
This website contains information about where to obtain vital records (such as birth, death & marriage certificates and divorce decrees) from each state, territory and county of the United States. The site has convenient links to online versions of the White Pages and Yellow Pages.

Related Article:
New Rules For Using Public Domain Materials

Suggestions for links beyond this list should be sent to

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DISCLAIMER: This article discusses general legal issues of interest and is not designed to give any specific legal advice pertaining to any specific circumstances. It is important that professional legal advice be obtained before acting upon any of the information contained in this article.

© 1998-2018 The Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin. All rights reserved. Copylaw is a trademark of The Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin

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