Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Post 82: Thesis Images and Due Diligence re: Copyrights

This post is dedicated to one of those other niggly detail things that you need to keep track of as you get close to finishing your thesis: images and diagrams that you have borrowed or altered from other texts or sources, that appear (cited) in your thesis, how you do that, and how to find out if you need special permissions when using someone else's work.

Currently, the best resource to go talk to about this is Ms. Inba Kehoe, the Copyright Officer at UVic. During my discussion with her, it became clear that in order to follow through on due diligence, it's best to handle each image individually, because different sources and different formats may require handling their copyrights differently. Speaking with her in person is a great option to do this. If you're at the end of your degree, and are no longer living in Victoria or cannot make it to campus, it is possible for you to send your images or part of the article with your images ahead to her, so she can look into a few things, and the discussion can happen over email or otherwise online.

Beautiful BC Mountains -- flying back to my home province a little while ago.
Unlike citations for other written works, including the grey literature, books, or easiest of all, journal articles, I felt a little bit more concerned about reproducing an image from someone else's work. Is it as straightforward as listing the author and publication year [eg. (Lettrari, 2016)], as with written works? Do I need to obtain special permission? How do I go about that? Do I need to do it for a single image? For every image? Where is the cut-off line? Is there one?

I'm happy to say that Ms. Kehoe was very helpful in answering all of my questions, and I now know a lot more about having to look for the "Terms and Conditions" or otherwise Copyright information use for reproduction. For websites or online information, it's usually located at the top of bottom of the page; generally, I was told, federal government information is quite good about informing users of what they need to do to use their information.

Best of all, after this discussion, I no longer need to stress about figuring out how to cite the images for my thesis: in my case, I was interested in three images, and here's what I learned...

1. From a historical government technical report (dating to 1974), in which the authors had made their own graphics, depicting a basic schematic of the life cycle of the mountain pine beetle, and its relationship with the local weather conditions. Since the authors created the image themselves, and for that specific report, and because I am using less than 10% of the publication, I can simply cite the report directly. The 10% figure comes from the "Fair Dealing Copyright Guidelines" at UVic. I also found a useful schematic to look at here, too (Copyright Flowchart for Online Course Materials), which, although designed for a specific context, I also found relevant for thinking about my thesis materials. I do still recommend checking in with Ms. Kehoe if you have further questions or concerns.

Lovely red chestnut blossoms (Castanea sp.) lining Craigflower road this time of year!
2. The second image I want to use is a map of the spread of the mountain pine beetle during the first dozen years of the most recent outbreak. Produced by the Canadian Forest Service (Natural Resources Canada), it shows its rapid range expansion from British Columbia further north and east into the boreal forest -- and is, in other words, a key image for my work. Because I retrieved it from an online publication, we tracked down the site's Terms and Conditions, wherein it explained exactly how to work with the data on the website.

There were three conditions they gave if the work was used for public, non-commercial (which my thesis work falls under); the first two were very straightforward (1. If I don't alter the image, then I don't need to do anything else; 2. I need to give proper attribution), and the third was including a disclaimer with the citation for the image that it is published by the government of Canada, and that it has not been reproduced in affiliation with or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada. That is not onerous at all.

3. The third image I want to include in my thesis was one generated by my library's Summon—the portal that does all the searching through the databases and journals, etc., when I am looking for something, which in this case, was the rising incidence of journal articles published with "novel ecosystem*" in its keywords. I was trying to acknowledge in my literature review chapter that the concept was really being taken up since the publication of several key articles between 2006 and 2009 and onwards. Indeed, this year, the Ecological Society of America (ESA)'s annual conference theme is novel ecosystems.
Perfect end to a summer day: fresh strawberry rhubarb crisp in the evening! :)
I am very pleased to have made the appointment with Ms. Kehoe. It was a very informative and ultimately relieving meeting that made me feel more in charge of my work.

I also learned that I do NOT need to cite images or figures that I produce myself for my thesis. There is not need to 'self-cite.' This does not apply for work that is already published and exists elsewhere, which will need to be cited as per usual practices. But if this is a new diagram or image produced for your thesis or dissertation, you simply include the descriptive text that helps explain the thing, and off you go! It's standard to assume that it is the work of the author(s) if there is no citation. This also makes me realize why it's very important to cite properly; you could otherwise inadvertently be taking claim for someone else's work!

Onwards and upwards! The list of things to do to finish my thesis is starting to get smaller! :)

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