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My Dissertation Is Online! Wait – My Dissertation Is Online?! Copyright & Your Magnum Opus

 

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Cross-posted from the UCB Library Scholarly Communications blog

You’ve worked painstakingly for years (we won’t let on how many) on your magnum opus: your dissertation—the scholarly key to completing your graduate degree, securing a possible first book deal, and making inroads toward faculty status somewhere. Then, as you are about to submit your pièce de résistance through ProQuest’s online administration system, you are confronted with the realization that—for students at many institutions—your dissertation is about to be made available open access online to readers all over the world (hurrah! and gulp).

Because your dissertation will be openly available online, there are many questions you need to address—both about what you put in your dissertation, and the choices you’ll need to make as you put it online. If you are a first-time author, facing these concerns can be daunting to say the least. And you definitely don’t want to be thinking about them for the first time when you are scrambling to submit your dissertation to ProQuest.

For instance, you’ll need to consider:

  • Are you using materials created by other people in your dissertation? Perhaps you’re using photos, text excerpts, scientific drawings or diagrams? You might need the authors’ permission to include them.
  • Are you using materials from a library’s special collections or archives? You may have signed agreements or accepted terms of use that affect what you can publish from those materials. (Examples: Archive.org, Harvard’s Houghton Library, Smithsonian, and Niels Bohr Library & Archives.)
  • Are you including information about particular living individuals? You might need to consider their privacy rights (see, for instance, a discussion on p. 15 of a University of Michigan dissertation guide).
  • If you own copyright in your dissertation (as most grad students in the UC campus system do), should you register your copyright?
  • Do you need to embargo your dissertation for privacy, patent, or other concerns?
  • Should you license your dissertation for greater use by others?

At UC Berkeley, we’ve created a workflow and guide for you to tackle these kinds of important copyright and other legal questions. Below, I’ve included highlights from the workflow, but there are plenty more best practices to draw upon in the guide. What follows are, of course, exactly that: best practices, and not legal advice. Your local scholarly communication officer or librarian (see this list for some resources around UC) can help you find additional information as you consider these issues for your own dissertation.

Continue to learn more about Copyright Basics and the Workflow

Rachael G. Samberg
Scholarly Communication Officer

Contact me at rsamberg [at] berkeley.edu.

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