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Library Research Guides

Copyright for Dissertations

This guide provides answers to common copyright questions for authors of dissertations at the University of Michigan.

Copyright Questions?

The University of Michigan Library Copyright Office provides help with copyright questions for University of Michigan faculty, staff and students. Please email us with questions or visit our website for more information.

Legal Advice

The information presented here is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Michigan, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

If you require legal advice in your personal capacity, the lawyer referral services operated by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan may be helpful to you.

Copyright Infringement & Plagiarism

Copyright infringement and plagiarism are related but distinct concepts. It is possible to plagiarize even when you have cleared permission for all the copyrighted works. Similarly, it is possible to infringe copyright even when you have given careful attribution. Scholarly authors pay attention to both proper citation and copyright when writing for publication.

  • Plagiarism is using the work of another without attribution.
  • Copyright infringement is any reproduction, distribution, modification, performance, or display of a copyrighted work without the permission of the rights holder that does not fall under fair use or another user's right. In the case of a work licensed under one of the Creative Commons licenses, using the work without giving attribution means you do not meet the legal conditions of the license.

Per the Rackham Dissertation Handbook (PDF),

Sources that must be cited include, but are not limited to:

  • language or wording either taken directly or paraphrased from another source, whether published or not;
  • concepts, interpretations, techniques, methods, test instruments or procedures borrowed or adapted from another work, whether published or not;
  • charts, graphs or figures borrowed or adapted from another source, whether published or not;
  • photographs, films, recordings, digital material or other images from another source; and
  • data, surveys or results of any kind from any other inquiry or investigation.

Sweetland Center for Writing

The Sweetland Center for Writing provides a number of resources on plagiarism and how to avoid it, including Beyond Plagiarism: Best Practices for the Responsible Use of Sources.