Intellectual Property Issues in Engineering

A resource for engineering graduate students at the University of Arkansas, intended to help them make informed decisions about copyright, patents, and other intellectual property matters associated with their studies

Engineering Librarian

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Jay McAllister

Mullins 423


I am not a lawyer and these pages do not contain legal advice.

This guide contains resources that will help you make decisions about copyright and other intellectual property issues that might come up as you prepare your dissertation or thesis. Feel free to ask questions and to use these resources to make decisions. Ultimately you will be responsible for the decisions you make

When Do I Need Permission to Reuse? A Fair Use Discussion

Can I use this image in my dissertation/thesis? Do I need to get copyright permission? Is it Fair Use?

Reusing information, especially images, in any written work that is going to be published has some limitations. It is possible what you want to use in your writings is covered by Fair Use. This exception allows you to use reasonable amounts of copyrighted materials for scholarship and educational purposes. Answers to the following questions will help you decide if you may use the information either with or without permission.

  • Was the information gathered from a federal level government document (or technical report)? Federal level government documents are usually in the public domain. Reusing text, graphs, images, and other information is allowed. Be sure, however, to cite the resource correctly.
  • Does the resource you are using state that it is an open access item? Read the license carefully and follow its instructions for correct use, limitations on use, and attribution requirements.

For traditionally published materials (journal articles, books, web pages, conferences distributed on CD, etc.) there is a checklist that will help you determine if your use of copyrighted materials meets the Fair Use exception or if you need to request copyright permission. Below are the questions I ask myself as I make decisions about the need for copyright permission.

  • Am I using the information in an educational setting for an educational purpose?
  • Does the information illustrate a point within my writings or lecture?
  • Is the information I use technical in nature?
  • Am I using a reasonable portion of the original work?

If some of the answers to the above questions are no or "I'm not sure", then check with your adviser as to whether you need to get copyright permission from the original author. If all the answers are yes, proceed to the next set of questions.

  • Will there be an economic impact on the original copyright holder?
  • Is the original image mainly artistic in nature?

If the answers to these questions are no, then what you are using may very likely fall within fair-use guidelines. If your answers are "yes" to either question, then you should request permission from the copyright holder.

Should I.....?

Register my copyright?

If you register your copyright you may have an easier time dealing with infringement issues that might arise. In the United States your work does not need to be registered to be protected. If you want to register your copyright, ProQuest will help you do so.

Embargo my dissertation or thesis?

If there is information in your dissertation or thesis that could lead to a patent or is considered proprietary information by a company that sponsored your research you may need to delay the publication through an "embargo". ProQuest provides you the opportunity to delay the distribution of your dissertation/thesis if needed.

Publish my dissertation or thesis as an open access publication?

Many authors like to allow others to  reuse portions of their work without the need to request copyright permission. One of the ways to do so is to publish your work as an open access document. For more information on this issue, go to the tab called "open access". By submitting your materials to ProQuest, you will be allowing other libraries to offer access to their campus community by purchasing a subscription. Individuals not affiliated with a school that purchases access will be able to purchase a copy if you have not allowed for open access.

Deposit a print copy with the University of Arkansas Library?

When you submit your dissertation or thesis for publication you will have the option of submitting a paper copy to University Libraries. This copy will be held for future research in a protected and controlled environment. If you submit one paper copy it will most likely be stored in our Special Collections and have limited access. If you submit two copies, one copy will be placed in the circulating collection. We allow users to check this copy out and will also loan it out through ILL to individuals at other institutions. More copies in the library, more copies for access.