Copyright is the exclusive right given by federal law to the creator of a literary or artistic work to use, reproduce, or display the work. Normally full copyright in the dissertation/thesis belongs to the individual student. Students can register for copyright of a dissertation/thesis by paying an additional fee at the time they deposit their dissertation/thesis, or writing to the U.S. Copyright Office, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20559-6000.
Graduate students are responsible for appropriate use of copyrighted materials in their thesis. Some material may be available for use without restriction while other material may require written permission from the copyright holder. Other material may be appropriately used without written permission under the “fair use” provisions of the copyright law. General guidance regarding use of copyrighted materials is available from ProQuest/UMI from the UW–Madison Libraries website.
Fair Use: General information regarding how to determine if your use of copyrighted materials constitutes fair use can be found here. Reviewing and completing a fair use checklist may also assist you. Additionally, professional or disciplinary societies may have fair use statements to help negotiate disciplinary specialties.
Written Permission: If written permission is required, students are responsible for obtaining such permission and maintaining records of the written permission to use the copyrighted material. Permission is usually requested by sending a letter of request to the copyright holder. Normally, the letter would be returned with an approval stamp or signature. Some copyright holders require a specific form of acknowledgment. A sample permission request letter can be found here. Note that obtaining written permission can be a lengthy process. Plan ahead and budget ample time to obtain all required permissions.