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Research Guides

Dissertations and Theses

Copyright at CUNY

CUNY's Office of the General Counsel (Legal Affairs) provides guidance on copyright, including information about requesting permission from rights holders and a "Do I Need Permission?" resource.

Re-using Your Own Publications

Does your dissertation or thesis include any material that you've previously published? Have you checked to see if you signed over your copyright to the publisher as part of your publication agreement? The following resources can help:

Whether you are re-using figures or tables, or reproducing an entire article as a chapter, be sure to check your publication agreement or contact your publisher to find out if permission is required. In addition to following the publisher's guidelines, there are some steps you can take to avoid copyright infringement or accusations of self-plagiarism:

  • Include a statement in your Acknowledgements section indicating which chapters include previously published materials, including a full citation for the publication.
  • Always cite your sources, even if you yourself are the source! Your published work should appear as an in-text citation and your list of references -- just as any other citation.

Fair Use

In U.S. copyright law, the doctrine of "fair use" allows everyone to use copyrighted work without permission, under certain conditions. For the most part, reproducing material in your dissertation or thesis will fall under the umbrella of fair use -- however, you should carefully consider whether or not an argument for fair use can be made according to these four factors:

  1. the purpose and character of the use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market

CUNY's Office of the General Counsel has prepared a useful guide to fair use. Columbia University's Copyright Advisory Office has prepared a Fair Use Checklist to assist in determining whether a use falls under fair use.

Obtaining Permissions

If your use of others' works exceeds that permitted under the doctrine of fair use, you must request permission from the copyright holder. This guide from the University of California includes helpful information on how to obtain permissions:

There is also a useful overview of the process specific to image permissions here:

ProQuest requires evidence of permissions for works by others to be significantly excerpted or incorporated in a published graduate work. Submit permission statements, or evidence of correspondence for permissions, as supplemental files when you submit your manuscript. Failure to obtain or to seek appropriate permissions will delay publication by ProQuest and in the CUNY Academic Works repository.

Additional Resources on Copyright

License Your Work

Any work is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium; it needn't be registered to be "official." However, a registered copyright is required before filing a court claim against another author for copyright infringement. Further discussion of why to register your copyright is available from the Author's Alliance. Registration will also include the work in the Library of Congress collection. The ProQuest/UMI company and the CUNY Academic Works repository otherwise serve as the publisher of record. ProQuest/UMI will register copyright for $75. The U.S. Copyright Office offers online self-registration for a smaller fee.

The copyright holder has the exclusive right to copy, to prepare derivative works, to distribute, and to license the work. A traditional copyright license reserves all rights for the author; a Creative Commons license describes how the author allows the work to be used by others. For uses other than those explicitly licensed, or even for those uses permitted under law (such as fair use), researchers may contact authors for permission.

GC graduate authors may attach Creative Commons Licenses, but are not required to do so. See the Sample Pages in this guide.


Poster with creative commons logos and associated licenses.