I’ve tried four times to communicate with a copyright holder regarding work I wish to reproduce. Four polite e-mails and no response. What to do?
This was a common problem when I was running privateline.com (external link). I was usually seeking permission to put up an image. Privateline.com was a free to use site, an essentially non-profit venture. Given the detailed e-mails I sent, the copyright holder had to know I wasn’t trying exploit their work for my personal gain. Yet 95% of my requests were never answered, positively or negatively.
On the fourth or fifth e-mail I tried this approach:
Having tried to communicate with you unsuccessfully over using the subject matter in question, I now consider your lack of objection as approval to use your content. I will, of course, credit you as the original source and link back accordingly.
This often got results and it was usually positive. Even if there was no response it satisfied me personally that I tried. But what if you needed permissions for a book, something that would make money? Your prospective publisher would doubtless say no to this approach. Hardcopy letters and lawyers might be needed to firmly establish that you have the right to use someone else’s content. But for the web this method might be what you need to finally get the ball rolling.