Obtaining Copyright Permission

When you use someone else's work in your thesis or dissertation, assess the need for copyright permission immediately. Refer to our Copyright Primer for information on what kinds of items need permission, and if you need permission, ask right away - even if you're not sure that you'll keep it in there. This will save you from a last-minute scramble for obtaining copyright permissions right when you need to be doing many other things, like defending your thesis, filing for graduation, or finishing up those last-minute tasks. 
 
Many journal articles have pre-made automatic forms for obtaining permissions. To request re-use of a journal article or material (such as figures or images) in a journal article, you most often need to request permission from the publisher. Most journal articles have a link on the abstract page that says "Get rights and content" (or similar). See the example image below for where this link is typically located.
 
image from Journal of Pragmatics indicating the Get Rights and Content link

Clicking this link will take you to a Copyright Clearance Center page where you can input some basic information. This form will generate a price for your re-use and a license statement that you can print out or save for your records. For a full illustration, watch the video below.

 

 
 
If you can't find a form and need to send an e-mail or make a phone call, feel free to use our permissions templates below. 
 
 
 

Templates

The templates below differ for those working on theses and those working on dissertations. This is because dissertations are distributed by the commercial publisher ProQuest, and therefore need extra permissions in their documents. 
 
Sample Permission E-mail for Publishers - Dissertation
Dear [name of person or "Permissions Representative"]:
 
I am completing a doctoral dissertation  at the University of Pittsburgh entitled "__________." 
 
I would like your permission to reprint in my dissertation excerpts from the following: 
[Insert full citation and description of the original work.]
 
The excerpts to be reproduced are: 
[insert detailed explanation or attach copy, e.g. Figure 1 on page 253, Table 8 on page 681].
 
The requested permission extends to any future revisions and editions of my dissertation, including non-exclusive world rights in all languages, to the electronic publication of my dissertation by the University of Pittsburgh, and to the prospective publication of my dissertation by ProQuest. ProQuest may supply copies of my dissertation on demand. These rights will in no way restrict republication of the material in any other form by you or by others authorized by you. Your response will also confirm that you own [or your company owns] the copyright to the above-described material.
 
If these arrangements meet with your approval, please return this e-mail with affirmation. Thank you very much.
 
Sincerely,
[Your name and signature]
 
 
 
Phone Call to Publishers Template / Outline - Dissertation
 
Be prepared with the full citation of the item you want to reproduce, including name of the article (including the journal) or book that you want to reproduce material from, the pages, the exact number of the table/figure, etc. 
 
  • Introduction / start of the call. 
  • "Hello, my name is [...] and I am a  graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh working on my dissertation. I am calling today to inquire about permissions to reproduce materials in one of your articles for my dissertation, which will be published and distributed by ProQuest."
  • Give them the information needed.
  • Hopefully the person will tell you what information they need, and you can read that information from your citation. 
  • Alternatively, they may direct you to a website or offer to send you an e-mail with permissions information. 
  • If they do this, ask for THEIR e-mail address so that you can look for their e-mail soon and follow up if you have any questions. 
  • Ask how much it will cost to re-use this material. 
  • "Just one more question, will there be any cost for granting this permission?" 
  • It should be free. If they try to charge you for it, use these responses:
  • "I apologize, but can I clarify that this will be used in a dissertation and I will not profit from this in any way. Is there any way to reduce that charge?"
  • "I am a graduate student with no external funding for this work, and will not profit from this venture. Is there any way that you can grant me permission without a fee?" 
  • If they insist, say "Please go ahead and send me the information by e-mail [give your e-mail address if necessary], and let me consult with my advisor about my options." Then contact us for help and alternative options. 
 
 
Sample E-mail Template for Authors - Dissertation
 
Dear [name of person]:
 
I am completing a doctoral dissertation at the University of Pittsburgh entitled "__________." 
 
I would like your permission to use material from your work, [insert full citation with link if possible]. I believe you are the copyright owner and can grant this permission, but if that is not correct, please let me know who owns copyright so that I can pursue this question with the right person. 
 
The excerpts to be reproduced are: 
[insert detailed explanation or attach copy, e.g. Figure 1 on page 253, Table 8 on page 681].
 
The requested permission extends to any future revisions and editions of my dissertation, including non-exclusive world rights in all languages, to the electronic publication of my dissertation by the University of Pittsburgh, and to the prospective publication of my dissertation by ProQuest. ProQuest may supply copies of my dissertation on demand. These rights will in no way restrict republication of the material in any other form by you or by others authorized by you. Your response will also confirm that you own the copyright to the above-described material.
 
If these arrangements meet with your approval, please return this e-mail with affirmation. Thank you very much.
 
Sincerely,
[Your name and signature]
 
 
 
 
 
Sample Permission E-mail for Publishers - Thesis
Dear [name of person or "Permissions Representative"]:
 
I am completing a thesis at the University of Pittsburgh entitled "__________." 
 
I would like your permission to reprint in my dissertation excerpts from the following: 
[Insert full citation and description of the original work.]
 
The excerpts to be reproduced are: 
[insert detailed explanation or attach copy, e.g. Figure 1 on page 253, Table 8 on page 681].
 
The requested permission extends to any future revisions and editions of my thesis, including non-exclusive world rights in all languages, to the electronic publication of my dissertation by the University of Pittsburgh. These rights will in no way restrict republication of the material in any other form by you or by others authorized by you. Your response will also confirm that you own [or your company owns] the copyright to the above-described material.
 
If these arrangements meet with your approval, please return this e-mail with affirmation. Thank you very much.
 
Sincerely,
[Your name and signature]
 
 
 
Phone Call to Publishers Template / Outline - Thesis
 
Be prepared with the full citation of the item you want to reproduce, including name of the article (including the journal) or book that you want to reproduce material from, the pages, the exact number of the table/figure, etc. 
 
  • Introduction / start of the call. 
  • "Hello, my name is [...] and I am a  graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh working on my thesis. I am calling today to inquire about permissions to reproduce materials in one of your articles for my dissertation, which will be made available online as part of our electronic thesis and dissertation program."
  • Give them the information needed.
  • Hopefully the person will tell you what information they need, and you can read that information from your citation. 

  • Alternatively, they may direct you to a website or offer to send you an e-mail with permissions information. 

  • If they do this, ask for THEIR e-mail address so that you can look for their e-mail soon and follow up if you have any questions. 

  • Ask how much it will cost to re-use this material. 
  • "Just one more question, will there be any cost for granting this permission?" 
  • It should be free. If they try to charge you for it, use these responses:
  • "I apologize, but can I clarify that this will be used in a [thesis / dissertation] and I will not profit from this in any way. Is there any way to reduce that charge?"
  • "I am a graduate student with no external funding for this work, and will not profit from this venture. Is there any way that you can grant me permission without a fee?" 
  • If they insist, say "Please go ahead and send me the information by e-mail [give your e-mail address if necessary], and let me consult with my advisor about my options." Then contact us for help and alternative options. 
 
 
Sample E-mail Template for Authors - Thesis
 
Dear [name of person]:
 
I am completing a thesis at the University of Pittsburgh entitled "__________." 
 
I would like your permission to use material from your work, [insert full citation with link if possible]. I believe you are the copyright owner and can grant this permission, but if that is not correct, please let me know who owns copyright so that I can pursue this question with the right person. 
 
The excerpts to be reproduced are: 
[insert detailed explanation or attach copy, e.g. Figure 1 on page 253, Table 8 on page 681].
 
The requested permission extends to any future revisions and editions of my dissertation, including non-exclusive world rights in all languages, to the electronic publication of my dissertation by the University of Pittsburgh. These rights will in no way restrict republication of the material in any other form by you or by others authorized by you. Your response will also confirm that you own the copyright to the above-described material.
 
If these arrangements meet with your approval, please return this e-mail with affirmation. Thank you very much.
 
Sincerely,
[Your name and signature]