Senior Projects & Copyright

What are some reasons that I may want to restrict distribution of my senior project due to copyright restrictions?

  • if there are co-authors whose permission has not been obtained
  • if the work of College faculty is disclosed and their written consent to distribute has not been obtained
  • if you plan to publish the project in a journal at a later date and that journal’s policy does not allow for internet posting of pre-prints.
  • if the project is the result of research done with faculty or other students
  • if the project contains third party copyrighted materials such as images, music, scripts, etc. that were created by others, or performances are part of the work, and written permission for their redistribution has not been obtained

What is “third party” copyrighted material?

Third party copyrighted material includes images not created by you and/or the reproduction of substantial portions of other works that are not in the public domain. Use of such material in a senior project is usually acceptable under federal Fair Use guidelines, but posting of this material on an Internet site normally cannot be allowed unless permission for redistribution of the copyrighted material has been obtained from the owner(s) of the copyright.

What if my senior project contains third party copyrighted material?

If you have obtained written permission for release/republication from the owner(s) of the copyright, copies should be attached to the permission form and submitted to the Library. If written permission for such release has not been obtained, fill out the Intellectual Property section of the permission form. You will need to list all the third party copyrighted material contained in your project, also please list the owner(s) of the material if known. Please be aware that any parts of your project which are not your intellectual property, and for which you do not have copyright permission, may be excluded from distribution beyond the Allegheny College community.

I am using third party materials (someone else’s work) in my senior project. For example, I want to use a figure(s), image(s), photo(s), graphic(s), etc. I found the work from a textbook, published journal article, or the web. Do I need permission?

These types of works are likely copyrighted regardless of their source, unless they are in the public domain. It does not matter if there is a copyright notice on the work or not; it isn’t required any more:

  • Check to see if there is any sort of license or Creative Commons license attached to the work you wish to use that might anticipate your use and allow it. [Like a Terms and Conditions statement that allows nonprofit educational use, for example]
  • Otherwise, in order to use the work, it must qualify as a fair use or you must seek permission.

Although you must conduct the fair use analysis yourself in a good faith reasonable fashion, there is a good chance that your proposed use is a fair use for purposes of inclusion in your senior project. However, should you plan to later publish your work, that may alter the analysis (4th factor) so much as to remove it from fair use.

For more information about copyright, contact Doug Anderson at 814-332-3768 or email