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Theses & Dissertations

Reusing Copyrighted Work, Fair Use, Creative Commons, and More


See the ETD Guidelines for a more detailed explanation of copyright and how it might affect your ability to use someone else's work as part of your manuscript. Below are a few tools you can use to help determine a work's copyright status and what you can or can't do with it.

Need to Determine Whether Something is Under Copyright and for How Long?

Copyright Term and the Public Domain (Cornell University Libraries)
A regularly-updated chart that will help you determine whether a work you'd like to reuse is under copyright and, if so, for how long.

What About Fair Use?

U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index 
An explanation of the "four factors" that determine whether an intended reuse counts as fair use or not under U.S. copyright law and a searchable index of past cases decided on the topic.

Fair Use Checklist (Columbia University Libraries)
A checklist to help authors determine how the four factors apply to the reuse of a work and whether or not that use is, indeed, fair use.

Reusing Something That Is Creative Commons-Licensed (aka CC-BY)?

Creative Commons: About CC Licenses 
Some creators retain their copyright but openly license their work under Creative Commons (CC) so that anyone else can reuse it free of charge under certain conditions. This explains what each CC license means and what restrictions each may place on potential reuse.

Need More Help?

Copyright Basics at Marshall University
A guide that takes a slightly deeper dive into the basics of copyright with an on-campus contact.


Attribution vs. Citation

Citation is when an author indicates the source of an idea or quotation that they refer to in their work. Most style guides have detailed rules and guidance for formatting citations both in-text and in one or more reference lists.

An attribution gives credit to the creator of a work reused within your manuscript. For example, the caption underneath a photo often attributes the work to its photographer. Many style guides also have rules on how to format an attribution and whether or not to also cite the work within the attribution and/or the reference list.

Open Attribution Buider (Open Washington)
Generates an attribution based on a Creative Commons license. This format may not comply with your style guide. Verify before your final draft.

Should You Register for Copyright?

Should You Register Your Copyright for Your Thesis or Dissertation?

When you submit, your final, publication-ready thesis or dissertation via ProQuest, you are given the option to pay ProQuest to handle the registration of your manuscript with the U.S. Copyright Office.

This is not mandatory. Your manuscript is copyrighted regardless of whether you pay for copyright registration, but there are some important things to consider before making this choice.

Although your work is automatically copyrighted as soon as it is complete, you will need to have registered your copyright if you ever want to sue for copyright infringement or claim statutory damages and attorney's fees. The time frame in which you register is also important in both of these situations. Registering the copyright before publication is always best. If you wait until after publication, certain time limits come into play.

There are other benefits to registration. In addition to establishing a time frame for court cases regarding your copyright, it creates a public record that will help those wishing to license your work to determine its rights status now or many years in the future. The registration process also usually satisfies Library of Congress deposit requirements.

For more information about copyright registration: