Copyright and Fair Use


This text is reproduced from chapter 2 of the Guide to Preparation Theses, Project Reports, and Dissertations.

The candidate must obtain written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce or adapt in a thesis or dissertation all or part of a copyrighted table, figure, line drawing, or other material that is a complete unit in itself. Copyright holders, especially publishers, differ on what constitutes “fair use” without copyright and some require permission for use of even short quotations, although generally it is not necessary to obtain permission to use short quotations from a copyrighted source in the thesis or dissertation unless the thesis or dissertation or portion thereof is published. It is necessary, however, to secure permission if the quotation is extensive. If in doubt, the candidate should contact the copyright holders to determine their requirements.    

Written permission may take from two weeks to several months to secure, therefore the candidate should request permission as soon as it becomes evident that she or he expects to use the copyrighted material. In addition to being acknowledged in the thesis or dissertation, all completed permission forms or letters must be prepared and submitted as a formal appendix of the thesis or dissertation. 

Permissions in a thesis or dissertation should be credited according to instructions provided in the style manual that the candidate’s department requires be used for this purpose. If the style manual lacks such instructions, the candidate may refer to information on permissions in the latest edition of Form and Style by Campbell, Ballou, and Slade. Frequently, a copyright holder will specify the wording to be used in the permission statement.

If permission to reproduce copyrighted material is denied, the material must be removed from the thesis and appropriate modifications made before the thesis can be approved. If requested permissions have not been received at the time the thesis is submitted, the candidate should notify the Thesis/Dissertation Reviewer, so that the thesis will not be accepted until all permissions are received.    

The candidate’s Committee is responsible for advising the candidate concerning the need to secure copyright permissions; however, the ultimate responsibility rests with the author of the thesis or dissertation. The Thesis/Dissertation Reviewer is not responsible for providing advice concerning securement of copyright permissions.

Fair Use

The University of California provides an extensive and informative website on copyright and fair use.

The following text is reproduced from the UC page on fair use.

Four factors of fair use

The fair use section of U.S. copyright law lists the following factors to be evaluated in determining whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is a permitted fair use: 

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes — uses in nonprofit educational institutions are more likely to be fair use than works used for commercial purposes, but not all educational uses are fair use.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work — reproducing a factual work is more likely to be fair use than a creative, artistic work such as a musical composition.
  • The amount and significance of the portion used in relation to the entire work — reproducing smaller portions of a work is more likely to be fair use than larger portions.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work — uses which have no or little market impact on the copyrighted work are more likely to be fair than those that interfere with potential markets.
  • Fair use is purposefully broad and flexible. It requires a thoughtful analysis of each of the four factors based on specific circumstances. In applying the four fair use factors, each factor is relevant in order to determine whether a particular use is a fair use. A final determination on fair use depends on weighing and balancing all four factors against the facts of an individual situation.

Guidance on the use and limitations of fair use

Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to make decisions about a contemplated fair use of copyrighted works in an informed and reasonable manner, consistent with educational and research objectives.

In evaluating the four factors of fair use, you can use the following questions to help assess your particular situation:

  • Are you planning on using the work in a different way, or for a different purpose, than the original creator? In copyright terms, is your use “transformative”?
  • Are you using an amount of that work that is narrowly tailored to your new purpose?
  • Recent case law has shown that an affirmative answer to both of these questions weighs in favor of fair use.

If it is unclear whether a particular use would be permitted under fair use, you should consider obtaining permission to use the work from the copyright owner.

We encourage candidates to candidates to consult the University of California Copyright website for further information.