Copy Rights and Your Dissertation or Thesis
What kinds of questions have you had as you work on your dissertation as a creator of information and and a user of information copyrighted by others? For example, do you want to include parts of an article you published in a journal in your dissertation? Do you want to use a figure or graph from someone else’s published paper in your dissertation? Here is a brief introduction to key issues with links to more information and contacts for people who can help answer your questions. This material is drawn from workshops given on the topic at Dartmouth.
Copyright Law provides for a collection of rights that exist upon creation of a work in a tangible medium, which can be transferred or waived in whole or in part. These include:
- Distribute the work: publish, give away, sell
- Make copies, reformat, create derivative works
- Perform, display, and broadcast publicly
- Receive attribution
Copyright is really a collection of rights, and the owner can choose what to do with these rights. That is why a copyright owner can grant you permission to use some or all of their work, as long as you give attribution or appropriate citation to that work. This is why you can give distribution rights to your work to one organization and publication rights to another, as long as these are non-exclusive.
You hold the copyright to your dissertation, since scholarly and creative works of Dartmouth faculty, students and staff are owned by the author or creator with these exceptions:
- Assigned Tasks
- Outside Agreements (OSP handles these)
- Special Circumstances (shared copyright may be appropriate)
- Patentable Works (for dissertations, can restrict the distribution date)
These exclusive rights are limited by:
- Time-copyright runs out but not for a LONG time
- Type of use - typically educational as opposed to for profit uses are acceptable
- Type of material-creative more protected than factual or scholarly
- Fair Use factors–if a use is “Fair Use” you do not need specific permission. Key questions are: "Did the use "transform" the material by using for a different purpose than intended, or by combining it with other material to make something quite different" AND "Was the amount used appropriate to the use?". See the codes of best practice in fair use in specific contexts.
- Works not in tangible form but digital formats like web pages are tangible
- Information that is common property like calendars, lists of facts, data, weather data, physical property data, height and weight charts for example,
- Ideas, procedures, methods, concepts, principles, devices
Creative ways of expressing data could be copyrighted but not the data itself.
When you finish your dissertation and submit it to the Graduate Studies Office, you can also have it archived and distributed by ProQuest. You give ProQuest the “non-exclusive worldwide right to reproduce, distribute, display, and transmit the Work”. You can also give the Dartmouth College Library rights to make a digital open access version of the dissertation.
You still retain rights to publish your work; the rights you give to ProQuest and to the Dartmouth College Library do not preclude publishing any part of your dissertation in another form. Because of the Open Access Dartmouth Dissertation project, you do not have to pay ProQuest extra to have your dissertation be "open access".
ProQuest offers more information about submitting your dissertation for long term archiving and for limited distribution.
Dartmouth College Library is currently seeking permission from authors to digitize all Dartmouth Ph.D dissertations and share them on the web and Masters Theses will follow.Know Your Copy Rights: Theses and Dissertations Workshop PowerPoint.
- Using a chart from a published work
- Using data in a chart from a published work
- Using your own published journal article in your thesis
- Using your thesis in a published journal article
What are your rights as an author to your published work -- who actually owns them, and how can you retain more of them?
The Dartmouth Authors Publication Amendment helps you retain some rights and covers the NIH requirement:
Cornell University’s What Faculty Can Do outlines the 3 major options for faculty interested in retaining rights, while granting the necessary rights to a publisher:
The Springer Open Choice License for example
To find out what publisher policies are regarding author rights, search SHERPA RoMEO by journal title or publisher.
Who owns the data you produce as part of your work? Dartmouth has a Data Retention Policy that guides your laboratory on this.
However, there is a growing "open data" movement, and Science Commons is very involved in this.
Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities this PDF document by Kenneth Crews provides an in-depth but accessible discussion of these interrelated issues and questions.
For more information about copy rights and your dissertation contact Barbara DeFelice, Director, Digital Resources and Scholarly Communication Programs.