Skip to Main Content

Scholarly Publishing

Provides information about journals, books, and open access for authors looking to publish scholarly works.

Reuse of Third-party Content

Tip: Whether you are writing an article, your dissertation, or a book, keep track of what you are working with throughout your research and writing process. Permissions may not be required for a dissertation -- but may be necessary to publish an article or book. Keeping track of your materials as you do your work simplifies the process should you later need to seek permission for your intended use.

 

You may need permission to use materials such as images, diagrams, figures, tables, or data from a previous publication (including your own and others' work) in a new scholarly work. Here are some questions that will help you decide whether -- and how -- to reuse existing materials whether previously published or unpublished:

Is the work protected by copyright (and if so, by whom)?

U.S. Copyright law protects “original works” that are “fixed in any tangible medium of expression” (from Section 102 of the Copyright Act). Facts, ideas, processes, and other types of information may not be protected by copyright. Works may not be in copyright because they have entered the public domain -- meaning there is no copyright.

The U-M Copyright Office may be able to help you determine the copyright status of a work you want to use in a publication --  and who might hold the copyright. Here are some resources from the U-M Copyright Office that may answer some of your questions:

This resource from Cornell University can also help you determine if a work you want to use is protected by copyright or in the public domain.

Does a license exist for your particular use?

Creators may have taken proactive steps to license their work for broad use by applying a Creative Commons or other open license (e.g., for software), or specifying terms of use. Read terms of use from publishers, museum or library websites, or other sources carefully to determine what uses are permitted.

Does a user right such as fair use apply?

Publishers typically require authors to obtain permission for any material in a publication that is copyrighted by a third-party. However, fair use might apply to a preprint or dissertation.

If a work is not protected by copyright and not licensed for your use, you may still be able to make limited use of the work under fair use provisions of U.S copyright law. 

Our web page on Fair Use has information about the scope of fair use and how to conduct a fair use analysis.

Is an alternative available?

If there is not an openly licensed version of specific copyrighted content you would like to use, it is worth considering whether an alternative work would be suitable for your purposes.

The U-M Center for Academic Innovation maintains a list of sources of openly-licensed content.

Do you need to seek permission?

If you determine that you need permission to use a work, there are a variety of considerations to keep in mind. See our guide on Permissions for more information.

Most publishers provide easy ways to request permission if you are re-using published content for non-commercial purposes. For example, each article published by the American Chemical Society (ACS) has a Rights & Permissions link (see example). The link takes you to the RightsLink tool from the Copyright Clearance Center, where you can confirm the purpose of re-use and get directions on how to give credit to the original work.

If there is no easy Rights and Permission link available from the publication, look at the Author's Rights or FAQs page (see this example) or contact the journal for permissions.

Contact the U-M Library Copyright Office

Library Copyright Office Services

The U-M Copyright Office provides information to help you make decisions about sharing and using copyrighted material in your research, learning, and teaching. Contact us by email (copyright@umich.edu) or by scheduling a one-on-one consultation. We offer public workshops and customized copyright education (presentations, workshops, etc.) for university groups, including faculty, staff, and students. A full listing of our copyright services and resources is available on our website

External Services

We provide information and education about copyright. We are not able to provide legal advice. Here are some commonly-sought resources that address related matters that are handled elsewhere at the university:

  • If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Michigan, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.
  • If you believe your copyright has been infringed on a web site hosted by the university, please contact our DMCA agent.
  • If you have questions about using the university trademarks, including the Block M, please consult the Permissions Guide from the university's Office of Communications.
  • 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.