All Stanford dissertations and theses are listed in SearchWorks. (From the home page, click the “Dissertations & theses” link under Featured resources. Limit any search result by selecting "Thesis/Dissertation” under Genre in the left column.)
Most Stanford dissertations written between 1989 and 2009 are available as PDFs from Proquest. You can access these directly from Dissertations & Theses @ Stanford or from the Searchworks record.
If the thesis or dissertation was filed in a digital format (this option was available starting in November 2009) it may not be indexed in the Dissertations & Theses @ Stanford database, but it will be available through a direct link in the SearchWorks record and from Google. If the student opted for embargo restrictions, some of or the entire dissertation may not be available for up to five years after the submission date.
You can submit a request to view a print copy of a dissertation in the Special Collections & University Archives department (library use only). The SearchWorks record will indicate if there is a circulating print copy that you can check out.
You can purchase copies of Stanford dissertations completed before 2010 via UMI Dissertation Express from ProQuest.
Many or most uses of images, quotations, and other materials in a thesis or dissertation would be fair use (please see the tab on Fair Use Basics for more information), but you cannot assume that an academic purpose automatically guarantees fair use. The key questions are basically: How are you using it? and Are you using an appropriate amount?
At one end of the spectrum, imagine a short quotation, or an image reproduced at a viewing-friendly (but not reproduction-friendly) resolution, and a dissertation that discusses and critiques that image or quotation. The writer is using the material to make a particular point important to their scholarship, and adding to academic discourse on the subject. No one is going to use the dissertation as a substitute for the original work. Few or no copyright owners would object to this type of use as a fair use, requiring no permission, and it is hard to imagine a successful challenge if they did. The analysis generally changes little for dissertations on the internet; you may want to consider whether you have included, for example, so many things from the same creator or at such a high quality that people would download a copy of your dissertation rather than buying a copy of the work.
On the other end of the spectrum, imagine a writer who wants to discuss one paragraph of another writer's work, but quotes ten pages that are not discussed. Imagine a writer who includes several images from a particular artist, in a format that shows more detail than a user needs to understand the writer's text, or is suitable for poster printing. Even though the writer is creating scholarship and has a noncommercial purpose, the amount used is more than is appropriate.
Many uses will fall somewhere between these two extremes, but in our experience most students writing a dissertation will fall closer to the first case. The nature of a thesis is that most external content is included because the author is making a point about it. Various guidelines exist to help evaluate different kinds of uses in the context of theses and dissertations, such as these from Proquest/UMI.