Using Previously Published Materials in Your ETD

When do I have to request permissions?

The use of any material created and/or previously published by others usually requires permissions to use in your ETD.  This includes images found on the web, figures from a report by a foreign government, tables from a process manual, and more.  It is often better to assume that you need permissions.

These permissions can be very easy to obtain, but can also take some time.  It is recommended that you begin your permissions requesting process as soon as you know what material you will be including in your work.

What if the copyright owner is my friend/colleague/contact?

A grant of permissions can be as simple as an email saying that they, as the copyright owner, give you permissions to use the material (including the name and description of the material) in your ETD.   This communication can be added to your permissions appendix. 

What about fair use?

Some uses of copyrighted material in ETDs may be considered a fair use under copyright law.  Each use of copyrighted content should be evaluated individually.  The Fair Use Checklist can help you with this.

Requesting permissions to use copyright content

The first step to requesting permissions is to find the copyright owner.  Because authors sometimes transfer their copyrights to publishers during the publication process, the copyright owner is often the publisher and not the original creator.  It is a good idea to visit the publisher site to locate information on permissions requesting.  Some publishers have developed tools to help you locate the right person to ask for permissions.  For example:

Once you've located the copyright owner, and if they do not have a proscribed method of accepting permissions requests (like RightsLink), you should remember to include as much information about your proposed use as possible in your request or use a template form:

What is RightsLink?

RightsLink is a service through the Copyright Clearance Center that many scholarly publishers use to automate the permissions requesting process for journal articles and figures.  Links to start the RightsLink process are usually at the article or chapter level in the online version of a journal or book.  They may be labeled 'permissions and copyright,' 'request permissions,' or a myriad of other similar phrases:


After clicking this link you will be taken to a new screen that will ask you a series of questions beginning with how you want to use the material.  Selecting 'reuse in a dissertation/thesis' will generate more questions.  For example:

a screenshot of the additional questions in an example RightsLink request

Note:  Under 'Circulation/distribution' always select the largest amount possible.

You can click 'Quick Price' to get an idea of what the publisher might charge for your request.  Many publishers do not charge for the use of portions of their articles in a dissertation/thesis. 

If, after clicking 'quick price' you get a message that states the publisher allows your use with no further action, you can take a screenshot of the page and add this to your permissions appendix.  If you receive a message that says the publisher requires that you complete the 'order' process, then you will have to create an account with the Copyright Clearance Center (if you do not already have one) and complete the request.  Your 'order detail' will be a multi-page license contract that you can add to your permissions appendix.