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Submitting Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs)

This guide provides guidance for American University students who are required to submit their theses or dissertations electronically. IMPORTANT NOTE: links to AU's official ETD Submission and Style Guide and templates are located under the HOME tab below

Permissions, Fair Use, Public Domain

Will your dissertation include quotations, maps, photos, or other material copied from other sources?

The works you quote or reproduce are also likely copyrighted.

Depending on the situation, you might need to get permission from the copyright owners to use these materials. Permissions, if needed, may be difficult and time-consuming to acquire.

Your agreement with Proquest/UMI indemnifies them from any third party claims and includes a statement that you have the necessary rights to reproduce any copyrighted work.

Keep track of your sources and always cite them.  Nothing can damage your scholarly reputation as much as a charge of plagiarism.

When you don’t need written permission to quote or reproduce work

The following are cases where it is unnecessary to request permission from a copyright holder to quote or reprint her/his work

 Works in the Public Domain – In U.S. 1924 and before OR if you can prove copyright has expired. Foreign copyright terms vary – ask a librarian, if unsure.

U. S. government documentsnot copyrighted and free to use.

Creative Commons  –   works where the author voluntarily ceded  copyright protections for derivative uses, often asking only for attribution. Check to verify.

Fair Use – Section 107 of US Copyright Law allows limited uses of copyrighted material without asking permission – for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, parody, scholarship, and research.  It requires that you weigh four factors….

The Four Factors of Fair Use

  1. Purpose of the use – The most critical question is whether you transformed the use from its originally intended use. Are you using the copyrighted work in a different context? If not, then permission should be sought.
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work –  How original and creative is the original work? Courts have been more favorable toward allowing uses of news and non-fiction than toward fiction and visual art.
  3. Amount of the work to be used – Limit portions to the amount you need to fulfill your scholarly objective, especially with poetry, fiction, and music.
  4. Effect of the use on the market for the copyrighted work – Will your use harm the  market value of the original?

All four factors must be considered in determining whether yours is a fair use.

Fair Use Evaluator - online tool

Fair Use is considered on a case-by-case basis, there are no hard guidelines.  If considering a fair use of  copyrighted work, contact the AU Library's Copyright specialist if unsure if your use qualifies.

IIf You Need to Ask for Permission

1.Identify the copyright holder. Caveat: This is not always easy because rights are often signed over to a publisher or will transfer upon the death of the owner so a copyright lawyer is sometimes necessary.

2.Locate the copyright holder: Once you have a name, contact Copyright Clearance Center ( or other  collective licensing agencies to locate address. If needed, contact a librarian for assistance.

3.Request written permission from the rights holder: A letter template is provided on the AU website