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Copyright Help for Theses and Other Projects

Using Images

Images, including illustrations, photos, maps, etc., should be researched and cited in the same way as someone else's ideas, words, or music.

Helpful information for sourcing and citing images can be found in the Image Research Guide.

Getting Image Permissions

1. Contact the Copyright Owner

Once you have identified the owner or owners, contact them to request permission to use their image. Websites often have departments (e.g., archives, rights and reproduction, etc.) that outline how to contact them for permission to use their image. If you're contacting an individual, introduce yourself, your institutional affiliation (e.g., Reed College), and provide a brief description of your thesis and intended use of their work.

Confirming copyright ownership

When it is unclear who the copyright owner is or if the owner is an entity like a school, museum, or archive, it is important to verify that the person or entity granting permission is authorized to do so. One way you can ensure this is by asking whether they retain the copyright or whether they assigned it to another owner (e.g., repository, publisher, estate, organization, etc.).

2. Getting permission

To request image permissions, it is important to submit a written request that clearly outlines the intended use. When contacting the author or copyright owner, provide a detailed description of how you plan to use the image in your thesis, including information about the distribution of your thesis. It is also recommended to keep a record of all written and signed permissions for future reference.

Permission forms

Often, copyright owners provide their own permission forms that can be downloaded from their website. If the copyright owner does not provide a permission agreement form, you can write your own.

Verbal permission

If you receive verbal permission, describe your intended use and document the conversation, including dates and times. To ensure proper documentation and record-keeping, it may be beneficial to send a letter to the owner requesting their signature and ask them to return it to you.

3. Saving Agreements
 It is good practice to keep a record of your image requests and agreements. Every repository or copyright owner will have different requirements and it's important to keep track of what each one requires. Agreements may include one (1) time use of the image, a specific image credit, or fees. 

4. Other tips

Need help with the image permissions process? 

Complete the Image Request Form

Need a template for tracking your image permissions? 

Download the Template