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I have a few works published in the ASME and Elsevier. Those works will be my parts of the dissertation. I was wondering if anyone has experience in requesting permissions before reusing those in your dissertation. How long it will take to get permission from the publishers?

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    Have you checked whether the publishers already have a policy that lets you reproduce your own work in a dissertation/thesis without separate permission?
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 21 at 0:16
  • @BryanKrause I just checked the copyright and it shows "Authors may reproduce and distribute the Paper for non-commercial purposes only. Non-commercial applies only to the sale of the paper per se." Does the dissertation belong to the non-commercial category?
    – Simon
    Feb 21 at 0:38
  • Thanks, @BryanKrause. Good idea to check the copyright.
    – Simon
    Feb 21 at 1:10
  • Elsevier at least has an explicit policy that names dissertations and theses specifically. Are you planning to sell your dissertation? Are you planning to publish your dissertation with someone who will sell it?
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 21 at 2:03
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    @BryanKrause Those are good questions. Definitely not for any profits and interest! I just want to finish my dissertation and get my degree.
    – Simon
    Feb 21 at 2:23

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When you give copyright to a publisher you normally get back a license for certain uses. Use in a dissertation is included in all but very strange situations. The rise of "stapled theses" depends on this. Somewhere there is "small print" that explains the details, possibly on a web site and possibly it was given to you directly when you signed over copyright.

Yes, a dissertation is non-commercial. It doesn't compete with the publisher's interest, and, in fact, enhances the value of the work since it raises the profile of the author.

You can ask your previous editor, of course, but I expect th answer to be "you can use it immediately in a dissertation".

Imagine the opposite case in which publishing implies you can't get your degree because your work can't appear in your dissertation. That would destroy both academia and the publishing industry. Publishers have a vested interest in supporting their authors as long as they don't compete directly with their financial interests.

Caveat: IANAL. There are exceptions to everything.

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  • Thanks, Buffy. I sent an email about the permission to the publisher a few days ago. I still don't get any reply... I don't know how long it will take... Hopefully, they can reply to me soon.
    – Simon
    Feb 21 at 0:55
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    @Simon potentially a long time.
    – Anonymous
    Feb 21 at 2:25
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Each conference venue, journal, etc, should have a locatable statement about conditions of re-use. Most will make allowances for you to use in your dissertation; some will have weird hoops to jump through; some won't give a blanket permission statement; some won't actually have any statement at all.

For those that have generous and easily findable policies, great, just archive that information for later use. But do make sure that you fully understand the terms.

For those that have hoops, or are unclear, or don't grant permission: You'll have to e-mail someone. Sometimes that will be obvious. If not, default to the editor or the conference organizers. Important note: Some venues that require you to ask permission will tell you flat out, "Allow so many weeks for us to answer."

Pay attention to that amount of time. Then add 50%. If they don't specify a time limit, assume at least a month.

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You do not need to wait for permission

The Elsevier copyright agreement states explicitly that an author's rights include the right to

Re-use their own material in new works without permission or payment (with full acknowledgement of the original article) [emphasis added] :

  1. Extend an article to book length
  2. Include an article in a subsequent compilation of their own work
  3. Re-use portions, excerpts, and their own figures or tables in other works.

Clearly this would cover your intended use in a thesis.

The ASME pages are not as well organized. Nonetheless, you will find that there is an ACME Rights and Permissions page which includes the following statement about the retained rights of authors ... which I have reproduced in full.

Retained Rights of Authors

Authors retain all proprietary rights in any idea, process, procedure, or articles of manufacture described in the Paper, including the right to seek patent protection for them. Authors may perform, lecture, teach, conduct related research, display all or part of the Paper, and create derivative works in print or electronic format. Authors may reproduce and distribute the Paper for non-commercial purposes only. Non-commercial applies only to the sale of the paper per se. For all copies of the Paper made by Authors, Authors must acknowledge ASME as original publisher and include the names of all author(s), the publication title, and an appropriate copyright notice that identifies ASME as the copyright holder.

Again, you are on safe ground. Your question does, however, prompt two further thoughts. First, remember that it is wise to store (indefinitely) a copy of the copyright agreement that you (or your corresponding author) signed. Second, there's the question of how I found the pages from which I have quoted. Answer: I used Google and searched for Elsevier copyright agreement which immediately brought up the page from which I have quoted. I also searched for ACME copyright agreement but that led me into a quagmire. Instead, noting the terms used in the Elsevier agreement, I tried site:acme.org author rights and that produced the relevant page.

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I had to do this for my PhD thesis, and there's a very simple answer to this question: go to your article/chapter/whatever on the Elsevier/ASME website and click the link for requesting permissions or rights to the content (as shown in the screenshots below for random Elsevier and ASME journal articles):

Elsevier article permissions linkASME article permissions link

These types of links (most publishers have them, nowadays) will usually take you to a 'copyright marketplace'. From here, you make a free account and fill out the electronic form, detailing specifically what you want to use and how you want to use it (could be a figure, table, full article or chapter, etc.).

Permissions form

You will then be told how much the rights for the content will cost and be given a license to use it. None of the content I asked for had any cost attached to it, so you shouldn't worry about that, particularly if you say you created the content (one of the options for the 'Who Will Republish the Content' question is 'Author of requested content').

You will get an answer almost immediately—the only time I did not get an answer immediately (the system works out the cost and permissions automatically–the form isn't reviewed by a human, generally), I received an email within 24 hours with the permissions.

Going through the process means that you are given a little certificate formally giving you permission to use content from a journal or book, which is important to keep, in case someone asks you to prove you were allowed to use the content.

You can use this method to get rights to use other people's content as well; I used several figures from books published by other authors in my thesis after getting permission this way.

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The answer is in your copyright agreement with the journal. However, I have never seen an agreement that prevents an article from being used in a dissertation.

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