In the event that you do need to ask for permission to use copyright-protected work, here are a few steps to consider taking:
1. Identify the Copyright Owner
If the copyright owner is an individual, you can contact that person directly. If you're unsure, you can use the publisher's website to find their permissions department. That department should either be able to process your request or direct you to the appropriate contact for the material you hope to use.
2. Write an Effective Letter and Secure Permission
When requesting permission to use a copyrighted work make sure to be specific when describing your credentials and affiliation, the nature of your project or presentation, and how and why you plan to use the copyright-protected material. Highlight any fair use factors that act in your favor (e.g. nonprofit educational use, only needing a certain excerpt or portion of the work, etc.) while still taking care to fully and accurate explain your situation. Nonexclusive permission may be granted informally with a verbal agreement, but exclusive permission must appear in writing with the copyright holder's signature present. You may need to be prepared to negotiate at this stage. Take a moment to look over some sample permission letters before writing your own.
3. Keep a Record of Everything
Make sure you have copies of all correspondence so you are ready in the unlikely event that your use of the copyrighted work is later challenged. The records may also be useful when reaching out to other copyright holders or negotiating permissions in the future.