How to Use Copyrighted Materials

There are a few steps involved in determining how to use copyrighted materials. The guide commissioned by ProQuest/UMI contains valuable information about the terms and steps that are summarized below. See also section 5.3 of the dissertation, thesis, and report guide for more detailed information.

  1. Determine if permission is needed to use the materials (see the ProQuest Guide and the FAQ for more guidance). Permission is needed for items that you did not create, with the exceptions noted below.
    1. Material in the public domain does not need permission. This includes work written by Federal employees. This information should be documented and provided in an Appendix (see item 3).
    2. If the copyright has expired, then permission is not necessary. Document this and provide proof in an Appendix (see item 3).
    3. Fair use is a clause that allows limited use of copyrighted materials. Typically, small amounts of text can be quoted without asking permission. Most journals state that permission should be asked for any figure that is reproduced. Fair use for short quotations does not need to be documented since this is a commonly accepted practice.
    4. If the material was published in a journal, the authors may have retained the right to republish the material. In this case, the copyright transfer agreement signed by the authors provides the permission necessary to reprint the materials. Document your permissions as described in item 3.
  2. Obtain permission for copyrighted materials, if necessary. Many publishers have online methods to request permission for materials. If not, a sample letter can be found in the ProQuest Guide. Permissions must be in writing and cannot be granted over the phone.
  3. Document the ability to republish copyrighted materials. The Graduate School recommends:
    1. A credit line for each source. The publisher will sometimes provide a format they require. If they don't, the Chicago Manual of Style, available in the Library, Dr. Charlesworth's office, or online (free 30 day trial!), has excellent examples in items 12.42-47 of the 15th edition.
    2. After the credit line, include a reference to the permission letters from the publisher or documentation that the student has the right to republish the material (examples: “See Appendix A for documentation of permission to republish this material,” or “See Appendix A for a copy of the copyright transfer agreement.”, or “See Appendix A for documentation that this material is in the public domain.”).
    3. Place all permission letters, or documentation that the material can be republished, in an appendix. This material must be organized so that it is easy for the reader to find. Signatures from permission letters must be redacted to reduce the possibility of identify theft.