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WPI Copyright Policy and Guidance: For Students

When Can You Re-Use Materials Created by Others?

You can re-use material created by others in your work if one of the following is true:

  • Their work is not under copyright
  • Their work is under copyright, but you have permission from the copyright owner to re-use the materials
  • Your use is covered by the fair use doctrine (see below)

Copyright and Your IQP/MQP

Copyright statements all students will be asked to agree to when submitting an IQP or MQP:

"I hereby certify that, if appropriate, I have obtained and attached hereto a written permission statement from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my project report, allowing distribution as specified below. I certify that the version I submitted is the same as that approved by my advisor(s) and sponsor(s)."

What this means: The student is affirming that they have obtained permission from the copyright holder to re-use their work, if appropriate (meaning if the use of the copyright holder's work is determined NOT to be covered by fair use, and the work is not clearly licensed for re-use, or in the public domain).


"I hereby grant to WPI and its agents the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible, under the conditions specified below, this project in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all other ownership rights to the copyright of this document, except those which have been handed to a third party through a separate intellectual property agreement. I also retain the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this document."

What this means: The student is the copyright holder of their work, and is granting WPI the right to re-use their work for educational purposes. If the project involved a publishing contract with a third party, that third party might hold the copyright to some parts of the work--this will depend on the individual project and the terms of the contract.

Do You Own the Copyright to Your Work?

According to WPI's Intellectual Property Policy, you retain the copyright to the work you create as a student, including your thesis and/or dissertation, while granting WPI a nonexclusive license to use your work for educational purposes in the future.

If you want to learn more about your own rights as an author, whether you are considering formally publishing or not, visit the Open Access guide in the 'Related Guides' box below. If you would like to reach out to a librarian with questions, email and we will be happy to help.

Fair Use and Your Work

From the United States Copyright Office: "Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances." (Source:

When you are trying to decide whether or not your use of other people's work (whether that is a picture, a figure or table, a survey, or anything else that you might want to copy and re-use) is covered under fair use, you will need to consider the four factors of fair use:

Factor 1: Purpose & Character of Your Use If you are using this work in a way that changes the nature or purpose of the original work, or if your use of the work is for the purpose of scholarship and you are not making a profit, you are more likely to be covered by fair use than if you are going to profit off of your use of the work.
Factor 2: Nature of Their Work If the work you are using is more creative in nature (e.g. an original image), you are less likely to be covered by fair use than you are if it is less creative (e.g. a table of data). If the work you are using is unpublished, you are more likely to be covered by fair use than you are if it is unpublished.
Factor 3: Amount of the Work Taken How much of the original work are you using in your paper or project? If it is a small or insubstantial amount (typically 10% or less, or an amount that does not contain the main substance of the work) you are more likely to be covered than if you are taking a larger or more significant portion of the work.
Factor 4: Market Effect of Your Use If you distribute the original work widely, you could effect sales of the work itself. Therefore, if your paper is being published online, you are more likely to be covered by fair use if it is shared on a password protected site (like a Canvas page). If you are distributing copies of the work physically, you are more likely to be covered by fair use if you provide instructions to those reading your work not to distribute it further.


  1. These four factors are interdependent. Consider how your use of the work in your paper or project meets each factor, and determine from there whether or not you think you are covered.
  2. The following WPI student works are posted publicly online: GPS posters, IQPs, MQPs, Theses, and Dissertations.

For a colorful flowchart with this information, download the "Fair Use and Student Work Flowchart" below.

If You Do Not Think You Are Covered by Fair Use

If you do not think you are covered by fair use, you should consider the following:

  • Does someone else already own the copyright to this work? Can I find out who?
  • Does the copyright owner, if there is one, provide information on the use of this work? 
    • The copyright owner might allow re-use in different circumstances through a Creative Commons license or specific permissions in a Terms of Service agreement (find out more about Creative Commons licenses here:
    • Is there a charge associated with re-use?
  • If the copyright owner does not share information on re-use, or the instructions for re-use are unclear, do they provide contact information for questions? You can often reach out to copyright owners directly and request to re-use their materials. Find out more about requesting permission for re-use on the main page of this guide in the 'Requesting Permission' section.

Related Guides