Astrid Bovell on May 25th, 2011
So have you made up your mind about what you want to do with your thesis?
While you’re writing your thesis with the intention of just submitting it for assessment, your use of copyright material created by other people is happily covered by the fair dealing provisions for study and research. However, if you intend to either make the full text of your thesis available online or publish it elsewhere, these provisions will no longer apply to your use of this copyright material. Yeah, you can take out this stuff, or find some copyright friendly material… but it adds so much value, so why not just ask if your use is okay?
In order to seek permission the first thing you need to do is identify and locate the copyright owner. If you need help doing this, have a look at our Permissions Information page for some tips!
Once you know who to contact, your next step is to write the request. The request is essentially a letter or an email (something in writing is best!) that asks very nicely if you can have permission to use this third party material in your thesis. Providing a lot of detail is essential. Make sure you tell them who you are, provide a full citation of the material you want to use, where you got the material from and how you want to use it. Tell them exactly what your thesis is about, and why the use of their material is important. It’s also really important that you explain what your intentions for your thesis are – tell them that you’d like their consent for your thesis (including their material) to be available for open access on the University Repository or that you’d like to publish in a journal or both or whatever else you would like to do with it. If you want some help with this, we have an excellent Sample of a Letter Requesting Permission and a break down of how it’s been written available on the website.
If you’re contacting the copyright owner through a website, have a look around to see if they’ve posted information about requesting their material before you write anything. Publishers and other organisations often have a page with a form they’d like you to complete or may have another preferred process for requesting permission.
As the copyright owner, they have the right to grant permission, deny permission or charge a fee for the use of their material, so be respectful if you receive an answer you weren’t expecting. Also, requesting permission can take time – a lot of time. Publishers and some others can take MONTHS to get back to you because of their busy workloads so the key thing here is START EARLY!
Keep copies of all your correspondence and of their response(s) and KEEP IT SOMEWHERE SAFE and where you will be able to find it again 10 years down the track when someone offers you a publishing deal and they ask to see evidence of the permission!
If you can’t find the copyright owner or you’re totally stuck, give us a call and we’ll see if we can help!