Copyright for UT GSBS Dissertations and Theses (Open Access)

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection for authors of original works including published and unpublished works. It gives you exclusive rights to reproduce, prepare derivatives, and distribute copies of your dissertation/thesis. Your copyright will last your life time plus 70 years.

How to get Copyright:

You automatically have copyright for your dissertation/thesis! Authors become copyright owners as soon as their work is fixed in any tangible medium (print or digital). You don't need to publish, register, pay a fee, hire a lawyer, or anything.

Although not required, it's a good idea to include a copyright notice in your dissertation/thesis. Just follow this example:

  • Copyright (c) 2010 John Doe

We suggest you also add the phrase "All rights reserved" because it may give some protection in countries that have different copyright laws.

You can register your copyright at the USA Copyright Office but you don't need to unless you want to sue someone for infringement. If you would like to register your copyright anyway, go to http://www.copyright.gov and click on "How to Register a Work." You can do it online and it only costs about $35.

How to Include Copyrighted Work in your Dissertation/Thesis:

Because of copyright protection, you sometimes need to get permission to include other people's work in your dissertation. The "Fair Use" Doctrine allows you to include short excerpts without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. If you use longer excerpts or illustrations (figures, tables, photographs, etc.) you need to ask for permission. There are no specific measurements or word-counts determining what requires permission and what doesn't. This is determined by several factors such as what percentage of the original work you're using. When in doubt, ask for guidance from your graduate advisor.

UT requires that you provide written documentation (letters or emails) from the copyright holder granting you permission to use their work. You will need to upload these along with your dissertation when you post your dissertation to the Digital Commons. They will not be visible on the site.

Keep in mind, the copyright holder is not always the author of the work: it may be the publisher. This includes your own work! If you include your own published articles (or articles submitted for publication), you might have already signed away all of your copyright to the journal's publisher. If you have, you may no longer have the right to use your own work and you must get permission from the publisher to use your article in your dissertation. Contact your publisher or locate the agreement you signed with them to determine what copyrights you signed over. Some allow you to include the "pre-publication" version of your article in a dissertation but many don't.

If you haven't already signed away all of your copyright you can ask your publisher to allow you to retain certain copyrights (eg: posting on a personal webpage or institutional repository such as the TMC Library's Digital Commons). Many universities recommend using the SPARC Author Addendum generator to create a print addendum to your publishing agreement.

Help with Copyright: For questions or help with the copyright process, contact