FAQs - Copyright and ETDs


  1. Do I have to put a copyright statement in my ETD?
  2. Where do I find answers to my copyright questions?
  3. What is "public domain"?
  4. How do I legally use somebody else’s work in my ETD?
  5. What is "fair use"?
  6. How do I determine that my use of copyrighted material is fair use?
  7. How do I claim fair use when I use somebody else’s illustration?
  8. Where can I find help getting permission to use a copyrighted work?
  9. How do I include a letter of permission from the copyright holder allowing me to use their illustration in my ETD?
  10. How much information do I have to provide when I use a chart or illustration from a scholarly article?
  11. Where can I find examples of ETDs that have appropriately used copyrighted works?

1. Do I have to put a copyright statement in my ETD?
US law does not require it, but it is a good idea to show ownership. See examples here.
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2. Where do I find answers to my copyright questions?
          Copyright @ Virginia Tech
          US Code Title 17
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3. What is "public domain"?
Within the context of ETDs, we are referring to copyright and an intellectual property determination. "A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone. The reasons that the work is not protected include: (1) the term of copyright for the work has expired; (2) the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright or (3) the work is a work of the U.S. Government. " [http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm]
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4. How do I legally use somebody else’s work in my ETD?
You can use them if you get the author/creator’s permission or if you determine fair use based on an analysis of the four fair use factors. See Fair Use at VT and the US Code Title 17 §107.
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5. What is "fair use"?
"Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders... It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test." from Wikipedia
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6. How do I determine that my use of copyrighted material is fair use?
You must weigh the four fair use factors to determine if the balance tips in favor of your use or in favor of the copyright holder.
The Fair Use Checklist can help you. University of Minnesota provides an online tool for assessing fair use.
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7. How do I claim fair use when I use somebody else’s illustration?
Include an appendix with your ETD that has the full citation and the Fair Use Checklist that documents how you determined that your use was fair.
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8. Where can I find help getting permission to use a copyrighted work?
There is a sample letter and a source of publishers’ email addresses that you can use.
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9. How do I include a letter of permission from the copyright holder allowing me to use their illustration in my ETD?
Scan the letter (many photocopiers have this feature or use equipment at VT’s InnovationSpace), save it as a PDF file, merge it into the last appendix of your ETD, which should also include the full list of citations.
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10. How much information do I have to provide when I use a chart or illustration from a scholarly article?
Give a complete bibliographic citation according to the style guide recommended/required by your department. Usually this includes: author, title of the article, source of the article (e.g., journal title), place of publication, publisher, date, page on which the illustration appeared. Include the URL if it was an electronic publication and date you last accessed the article.

See Copyright and ETD Citations at VT.
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11. Where can I find examples of ETDs that have appropriately used copyrighted works?
See http://etd.vt.edu/guidelines/samples.html
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