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Theses, Dissertations, and Creative Components: Rights and Responsibilities

Important things for students to know when completing their thesis, dissertation, or creative component.

Who do you ask?

If you need permission to reuse a copyrighted work, you will need to contact the rights holder. This may be the work's original creator, the publisher of the work, or the employer of the work's original creator.

  • For research and scholarship, the publisher of the work is usually the rightsholder. For example, a work published in the Journal of Mass Spectrometry is owned by the journal's publisher, Wiley
  • In some cases, though, the author of a work may be the rightsholder, if the author has secured the copyright to their work as part of their publishing contract, or if the author has published in a venue that allows rights retention. 
  • Finally, an author's employer may own the copyright to their work, when a piece of work is considered work for hire. 

What do you ask? 

When you are seeking permission to reuse a copyrighted work in your own publication, you will need to explain:

  • What you need to use (how much, from what part)
  • The context of your reuse (why you need to use this work and how you will be using it, i.e. for illustrative purposes or as an exemplar)
  • Where your reuse will be found (on a publicly available website, in a commercial publication, etc)

Be clear how and where you will be using this work in your own. By doing this, you will avoid any future miscommunication or concern from the rightsholder about your reuse. Make sure to get permission in writing as well! The letter of permission you receive should clearly describe the scope of what you are being permitted to do, and/or be clearly tied to your permission request, where that information is clear. 

Copyright Clearance Center

If the work is part of a book or a journal article, check the Copyright Clearance Center ("CCC") first. The CCC offers transactional (case-by-case) permission services. If the work you want to use is registered with the CCC, you can get permission for most materials through them directly.

Additional Support

For questions regarding grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and other sponsored research agreements from external federal, state, governmental, and non-profit sponsors, contact the Office of Sponsored Programs Administration.

For questions regarding grants, contracts, and other sponsored research agreements from external industry and commodity group sponsors, contact the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer. 

For questions regarding patentable intellectual property or copyright in software, contact the Iowa State University Office of Innovation and Commercialization.   

For general questions regarding university policies on patents, copyright, and trademarks, contact Barbara Biederman in the Office of University Counsel. 

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Abbey Elder
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