Library materials and archives – Unlocatable copyright owner

This framework applies to requests for the digitization and dissemination of copyright-protected University of Ottawa Library materials and archives submitted by University personnel, in cases where the owner of the copyright cannot be identified or located.


This framework applies to requests for the digitization and dissemination of copyright-protected University of Ottawa Library materials and archives submitted by University personnel, in cases where the owner of the copyright cannot be identified or located.

To submit a request, please answer the questions listed below clearly, in detail, and to the best of your ability, and send this information by email to the Copyright Office at [email protected]. You can submit a single request for multiple items; however, you must answer all questions for each item, as appropriate.  

Do not submit a request if the owner of the copyright to the materials in question has already been located and has: 

  • Refused permission to digitize and disseminate the materials; or
  • Granted permission to digitize and disseminate the materials under certain conditions.[1]

The Copyright Office will use the information you provide to analyze the request based on the likelihood of copyright-related risks.  The Copyright Office manager will then approve or deny the request.  The Copyright Office will keep a record of these requests, including your answers to the questions.

Information required

  1. Please provide a detailed description of the project and the materials in question.  This includes your role in the project, as well as the department responsible for the project.  
  2. What steps have been taken to identify and seek permission from the owner of the copyright? If identified, who is the owner?[2]
  3. Is the material published or unpublished?[3]
  4. Are there any alternatives to the material in question for which permission is not required, or for which permission can more easily be obtained?[4]
  5. What type of material is in question and in what context was it created?[5]
  6. Is the material of significant commercial value, either currently or potentially?  What is the potential impact of digitizing and disseminating this material on its current or potential value?[6]
  7. Will the material be altered in any way that could affect the creator’s moral rights?  This includes alterations occurring as a part of the digitization process, such as cropping or deleting parts of the material. [7]
  8. What portion of the material would be digitized and disseminated?[8]
  9. What is the public interest or benefit in digitizing and disseminating the material, and how substantial is it?[9]
  10. Are there any other factors relating to the project in question that you believe are relevant? If so, please include these.

In submitting a request, you affirm that the information it contains is correct to the best of your knowledge.

If your request is approved, you must include the following copyright disclaimer with the materials in question, including a link to the University of Ottawa Library takedown request form:

Copyright disclaimer

Permission to display and share this content has been obtained where possible, however the University of Ottawa does not represent or guarantee this to be the case for every individual item.  You agree that any use of this content will be at your sole risk, and that the University of Ottawa will not be held responsible or liable for any damages that may occur due to your use.  If you are the owner of content that you believe has been improperly attributed or is being used without permission, please complete a Request for Takedown of Library Materials and Archives.

You also agree to takedown and refrain from further disseminating any materials covered by an approved request if so instructed by the Copyright Office.


[1] If permission has been refused by the owner of the copyright, digitization and dissemination of the materials will generally not be permitted.

If the owner of the copyright has imposed specific conditions for the digitization and dissemination, these conditions must generally be followed.  You may proceed with the project by following these conditions and do not need to submit a request.  

[2] Reasonable steps may include, but are not limited to: (a) online searches; (b) contacting the collective agency administering the type of rights sought, such as Access Copyright in the case of literary material; (c) contacting a defunct publisher’s successor organization; (d) contacting the estate or successor of a deceased copyright owner; (e) contacting an archive, library, or museum that may hold further information.  If the Copyright Office determines that such reasonable steps have not been undertaken, your request will be placed on hold and you will be provided with further guidance.

[3] Depending on the context, the published or unpublished nature of the material could affect the risk of legal liability associated with its digitization and dissemination.  

[4] Digitization and dissemination of material for which a generally equivalent and legal alternative is available carries a higher risk of legal liability than if no such alternative is available.  An example of such an alternative could be similar material that is not protected by copyright, or for which the owner is willing to grant permission.  

[5] For example, digitization and dissemination of material created solely for the purpose of commercial entertainment will likely carry a higher risk of legal liability.  In contrast, digitization and dissemination of material created for the purposes of advertising or advocacy may carry a lesser risk, depending on the context in which it is being used.

[6] Risk of legal liability will likely increase if the material has significant current or potential commercial value, or if the project could negatively impact the value of the material in a significant way.

[7] Moral rights under Canadian copyright include a creator's right to attribution for the material, as well as to the integrity of the material.  Projects that may significantly impact a creator’s moral rights carry an increased risk of legal liability.  

[8] Digitizing and disseminating the entire material, as opposed to a smaller portion if possible, will likely increase the risk of legal liability.

[9] A substantial public interest in, or public benefit from, the digitization and dissemination of material may imply a lower risk of legal liability.  Substantial public interest or benefit may also outweigh the existence of a moderate risk of legal liability.  An example of public interest or benefit could involve bringing public attention to an important issue affecting Canadian society.  

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