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Student Copyright Guide

There are many considerations that go into requesting the permission of a copyright owner to use their owned works. We advise that you reach out early, as some copyright owners are hard to reach or fail to respond in time. 

Explore the following sections to determine how best to reach out to copyright owners, and take a look at the available documents at the end for templates for obtaining permissions. 

Materials typically requiring permission

Methods for obtaining permission

Permission templates

Materials typically requiring permission

The following list describes materials that need to be investigated and may require permission from the copyright holder. Unless the material has a license where the use is permitted (e.g., Creative Commons license), is in the public domain, or is considered “fair” after a fair dealing analysis, you will need to seek permission. The following list is not exhaustive, and using other substantial amounts of copyright-protected work may require permission:

  • Images, such as tables, figures, photographs, maps, illustrations, screenshots, etc. from any source, including those freely available online
  • Adaptations (or altering) of images, such as tables, figures, photographs, maps, illustrations, screenshots, etc.
  • Entire articles or book chapters, parts of articles or books, or other works that the student has previously published, including publications co-authored with others
  • Long excerpts or quotations from any one source
  • Testing instruments, such as surveys, questionnaires, validated tools, standardized tests, forms, etc.
  • Scripts, recordings, or other fixations of a performance, such as audio or video clips
  • Translations of copyright-protected work

Methods for obtaining copyright permissions

You should keep track of materials as their work is being written. For various reasons, replies to permission requests may be quick or take a long time. It is important to begin asking for permissions as soon as possible and keep records of your interactions.

To figure out who to contact: 

  1. Look for a copyright notice or statement on the work itself to identify the copyright owner of the material
  2. The owner may be indicated alongside the material itself (e.g., photo caption or figure citation) or may appear elsewhere (e.g., first page of an article or footer of a website)
  3. If you cannot find anything, look more broadly for copyright information on the website or database
  4. If you are still struggling in finding any copyright information, DO NOT ASSUME that you are able to use the work. Contact the Copyright Office for help. 

Obtaining permission from commercial book or journal publisher

Copyright permission from commercial book and journal publishers may be obtained quickly using the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) or through a form or email contact on the publisher’s website. Start with the CCC and then try the publisher’s website if not available through the CCC. Keep a copy of the permission and follow the terms of use, including how to cite the material.

Obtaining permission from an individual or organization

Some copyright permissions may need to be requested from individuals, governments, or organizations. You will need to go to the work or website to determine who best to contact. You may need to try several different contact points (e.g., emails or phone numbers) to determine who to write to to obtain permission.

To obtain written permission, and see below for what to include in a permission email request. Follow any terms of use and keep a copy of the permission, including how to cite the material.

If you are having difficulties identifying the copyright owner or obtaining permission, please contact the Copyright Office for help. 

Permission templates

Please use the following templates as a basis for your copyright correspondence. Make sure you save all emails for future reference in case anyone calls the copyright permissions into question. 

Introduce yourself clearly.

Tell the copyright owner that you are a graduate student preparing a thesis or dissertation for submission as part of the requirements for your degree at Vancouver Island University.

Tell the copyright owner that you are researcher / author and require their permission for publication on a website or journal.

Identify the work you are seeking permission to use.

Give standard reference information for the work you wish to use, including page numbers, and figure/table number, if any. You should briefly describe the context in which you propose to use the work in your thesis or work.

Tell the copyright owner where their work will be distributed.

  • that your thesis will be publicly available in VIU's online digital repository
  • that you will be granting non-exclusive licences to VIUSpace and to Library and Archives Canada

You, of course, will not know at the time you are asking permission, whether your thesis or article will be published in an academic journal. If you believe that it is a realistic possibility, you may wish to ask the copyright owner’s permission to use their work in the published version of your thesis.

Send the copyright owner information about and a copy of any publication agreements:

  • Should you have a publication agreement from a repository, website, or journal, include the agreement in your correspondence

Ask for specific action.

  • Request a reply by a given date
  • Offer to send the copyright owner a copy of your completed work

Keep copies.

  • Keep copies of request letters and all correspondence with the copyright owner

Do you have questions? Want to learn more? Contact the Copyright Office

The information on this website is provided as guidance for educational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. 

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