Carefully review the content of your graduate thesis, and assess the use and inclusion of third-party materials in your work. Do note that this may include your own previously published work. Be sure to observe copyright law, and follow academic writing conventions.
Please note that as copyright owner of your thesis you remain responsible for the review and use of third-party content.
Consider the following in reviewing your use of protected or copyrighted materials:
Is the work protected?
A work is protected (copyrighted) the moment it is created and available in a tangible form, and:
- Can be published or unpublished.
- Open access or behind a paywall
- Includes books, sound and video recordings, art and architectural works, music, images, photographs, source code, etc.
- May be available in print, physical, electronic, or digital formats.
- Enjoys a term of protection that usually includes a creator/author's lifetime and an additional period as determined by a country's copyright laws.
- Gives the copyright owner (author, artist, publisher, organization, etc.) the exclusive right to reproduce or make copies of a work, distribute or sell copies to the public, create derivative works based on the original work, and, to perform and display a work in public.
Any use of a protected work must include attribution, but in addition to this, if your use exceeds an acceptable amount, and infringes the rights of the author, - or if you simply not sure, consider the following:
Fair use conventions
The work is in the public domain
Permission from copyright owner (if none of the above applies)
1. Does your use of the work fall under fair use?
If your use of a work is limited (small amount), and would not affect the moral and economic rights of the owner of a work, it may fall under fair use.
- Fair Use, a legal concept and exception to copyright law, allows for limited use of a protected material under certain conditions, and without first obtaining permission from the copyright owner.
- This exception is intended for the advancement of knowledge, culture, and science, and is described in different national copyright laws (including UAE's copyright law), and supported by international copyright conventions.
- You are responsible for assessing fair use but there are tools available that can help you in this task.
- Try the University of Columbia's fair use checklist.
- This describes four factors for fair use that are part of United States Copyright Act, but still very helpful for an assessment. Please note that all factors must be addressed in the evaluation of your use.
- The purpose and character of the use
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work
Fair use is always decided on a case-by-case basis and requires an understanding of fair use and an assessment of your use.
2. Is a public license available for the use of the work?
Creators or authors may make their work available for use under more permissive types of licenses.
Examples of public licenses include:
- Creative Commons Licenses (CC)
- These licenses are issued by the author of the work and describe how the work may be used.
- All CC licenses require attribution (citing the copyright owner) but range in levels of permitted use.
- Free software licenses may support your use of software code.
Review the terms of the license and use the work in a manner consistent with these terms.
3. Is it in the public domain?
Works in the public domain may be used, reproduced, and changed without permission
When the period of protection expires for a work, and is not renewed or renewable, the work may enter the public domain, but do note the following:
- A work that is publicly available on the Internet does not mean it is in the public domain.
- If use of the public domain work is transformative then that transformation is usually protected by copyright.
- Unless expressly stated and verifiable (copyright owner), it may be difficult to assess whether a work is in the public domain.
Always assume the work is protected unless expressly stated as being in the public domain by the copyright owner.
4. Do you require permission from the copyright owner?
If you are using the entire or substantial parts of a work, or reproducing a core part of a work, and your use is not supported by permissive licenses, or the work is not in the public domain, you will need to ask permission from the copyright owner.
- If you are reusing content that you have authored and published elsewhere, you may need to review publishing contracts in case you have transferred some of your rights to the publisher, and in which case you will need to request permission.
- Include a Statement of Contribution in you declaration and briefly describe which part (chapters and page ranges) where previously published elsewhere, and if other authors contributed to the material. You will require permission from co-authors.
- Most academic publishers include an option on their platforms to allow users to request permission for different types of use of a work. Look for the option: "Request Permission"
- Purchase available permissions as above or through a third party - the Copyright Clearance Center.
- If these options are not available, search for contact details (organization, publisher, or author) and send an email describing your intended use and request permission.
Be sure to include approvals and proof of permissions in an appendix at the end of your thesis.
The information presented here is intended for informational purposes and is not legal advice.