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Copyright Help for Theses (and Other Projects)


If you plan to include in your thesis any photos, illustrations, text, maps, etc that were created by someone else, you may need to ask that copyright holder for permission.  As a scholar it is up to you to determine whether or not permission is required. Though this may seem complicated and burdensome, understanding some barebones copyright principles is essential for the academic researcher.  Just like learning to conduct a literature review or how to properly cite sources, know how to appropriately use copyrighted materials is an essential skill for the academic.

To get started, you'll need to do at least one of the following two steps, and possibly both:

1) Determine if the material you want to use is copyrighted.

a) If the material is not copyrighted (e.g. is in the public domain), or is covered by a Creative Commons license, you are free to use the content without permission.

b) If the material is copyrighted, or if you're unsure, you should start thinking about the fair use exception to the copyright law.

2) Determine if your use is fair.

a) You can use copyrighted content without permission if you determine that it's a fair use.

b) Otherwise you'll need to seek permission from the copyright holder.

We hope this guide will help you navigate these steps.  If you need more help, don't hesitate to ask us!