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Copyright Information

Copyright Information

The Thesis and Dissertation Office does not evaluate submitted manuscripts for copyright compliance -- that is the responsibility of the student (author of the manuscript) and the members of his or her thesis, project report or dissertation committee

Copyright protects the original expression contained in a work (e.g., selection and arrangement of entries in the yellow pages of a phone book). Expression means the words, sounds, or images that an author uses to express an idea or describe a process, fact or discovery. Copyright protects the expression but not the underlying conceptual or factual materials. This generally is effective for the period of the author's life and seventy years after death. For anonymous works, the effective term is ninety-five years from publication or one hundred twenty years from creation. Copyrights for works published prior to 1978 under previous law have a potential duration of up to ninety-five years. Upon expiration of copyright or forfeiture of copyright, works become part of the public domain and, as such, are free for all to use.

U.S. government publications are considered public domain; state and local government publications are NOT. If new works are comprised "preponderantly" of such publications, then the new author must state in a notice that copyright excludes those portions of the new work. Works from magazines, journals, newspapers, think tanks, and so on that have been created by employees paid to write or assemble information for specific use in the company's publication are copyrighted by the company (employer), not the writer (employee).

An author's copyright rights commence the moment the work is created and can be transferred, sold, willed, given away or rented, in whole or in part, to anyone the author designates. When a work is published, the author's rights generally are transferred to the publisher by written agreement.

Rights included under copyright regulation are the following:

  1. The right to make copies
  2. The right to distribute copies to the public (to publish the work)
  3. The right to make derivative works (translations, abridgements, adaptations)
  4. The right of public display (includes online database publishing)
  5. The right of public performance (doesn't really apply to publishing)
  6. The moral right against mutilation and misattribution (failure to credit the author as the source of a work, or crediting an author with works he or she has not produced).

The first two rights are basic rights and generally retained by the publisher. However, subsidiary rights (3-6) are often licensed by the publisher to a third party with expertise in a particular market (film production, foreign language, book clubs, etc.). Licensing of subsidiary rights also includes granting permissions for such things as photocopying for classroom usage, quoting, or reproduction of part(s) of the original material within some new work. Additionally, some works may have trademark protection covering the title and/or characters (the title and/or character cannot be used without permission).

To use any other author's copyrighted work, whether or not it has been published, one needs to acquire the owner's permission in writing, unless the usage is intended as "fair use." Samples of permission requests are shown in the left column of this web page. Permission is not required for U.S. government publications because they are in the public domain. Regardless of whether permission is required or "fair use" is applied, the author should always credit the sources used.

"Fair use" is a fuzzy term but considers these factors:

  1. Purpose and character of use (whether the intended use is for commercial or nonprofit educational purposes)
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole copyrighted work
  4. Effect of the usage on the potential market for the copyrighted work.

Fair use allows quotation from other works and reproduction of small amounts of graphic or illustrative material for review or criticism or to bolster the new author's arguments. Original works should not be quoted out of context. No more than a few sentences or paragraphs should be quoted and that material quoted should never predominate over the new author's thoughts, ideas, or materials. Proportion of quoted material to the whole (whether in one place or scattered throughout) is always the key consideration; quoting one hundred words from a source of one thousand words is less likely to be acceptable than quoting one hundred words from a source of ten thousand words. The importance of the quoted material to the original work is a key consideration; does the quote form the substance of the original material, is it ancillary to the main idea of the original?

The key for using copyright material in your thesis or dissertation is: WHEN IN DOUBT, ALWAYS SEEK WRITTEN PERMISSION. It is incumbent on the student (author of the manuscript) and members of his or her thesis, project report or dissertation committee to meet copyright compliance and to request copyright permissions when necessary. (The preceding information was summarized from the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, University of Chicago Press, 2010, chapter 4.)

GUIDELINES FOR CREATING COPYRIGHT PERMISSION REQUESTS

You can refer to the guidelines in this box to create your own copyright permission request or open one of the sample copyright permission letters below by clicking on links in the boxes..

  • Be sure to include your return address, telephone and fax numbers, email address, and date at the top of the letter
  • Make every effort to confirm the exact name and address of the copyright owner. Call the person to confirm the copyright ownership.
  • State clearly the name of your university and the title of your thesis, project report, or dissertation.
  • Describe precisely the proposed use of the copyrighted material. If necessary or appropriate, attach a copy of the quotations, diagrams, pictures, and other materials. If the proposed use is extensive, such as the general use of an archival or manuscript collection, describe it as precisely as possible. Your objectives are to eliminate any ambiguities and to ensure that the permission encompasses the full scope of your needs.
  • If you are requesting permission from an individual, it is important to acquire the signature or electronic signature of that individual. If you are requesting permission from an organization it is important to state the name of the organization as well as the signature of an authorized representative of that organization with name and position title of the representative clearly stated.
  • For more information about permission: Various organizations grant permissions for certain works. For example, the Copyright Clearance Center offers a "Republication Licensing Service" that may be helpful

SAMPLE COPYRIGHT PERMISSION REQUEST LETTER TO INDIVIDUAL

This link is to a sample letter requesting permission to use copyrighted material from an individual. It is meant to be a visual guide from which you can retype your own permission letter or email. Fill in the correct information where needed and remember to delete the instructional information that is enclosed inside {braces}. This example has been adapted from a form issued by ProQuest in 2006 labeled: PQ/UMI GradWorks Guide F2006, Guide 6: Sample Permission Letter for Use of Previously Copyrighted Material

SAMPLE COPYRIGHT PERMISSION REQUEST LETTER TO COMPANY

This link is to a sample letter requesting permission to use copyrighted material from a company. It is meant to be a visual guide from which you can retype your own permission letter or email. Fill in the correct information where needed and remember to delete the instructional information that is enclosed inside {braces}. This example has been adapted from a form issued by ProQuest in 2006 labeled: PQ/UMI GradWorks Guide F2006, Guide 6: Sample Permission Letter for Use of Previously Copyrighted Material