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"Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet." - Mark Twain

Copyright and Your Thesis or Dissertation

A copyright is an intangible right granted to you as the author of your thesis or dissertation. You have the sole and exclusive privilege of making copies, publishing or selling your thesis or dissertation. Currently, this protection lasts for your lifetime plus an addition 70 years. These exclusive privileges belong to you unless you have transferred them to someone else via a written agreement or your work is a “work-for-hire.”

Copyright protection automatically exists from the time you place your thesis or dissertation in fixed form. A fixed form can be a digital file such as a word processing document, PDF file, or a printed page. There is no requirement to publish or register your thesis or dissertation to obtain protection under copyright law. The copyright of any work immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work, unless as stated above it is a work-for-hire, or unless ownership has been assigned by written agreement.

Submission of your approved thesis or dissertation results in the publication of the document by Curtis Laws Wilson Library. As such, you grant the University a limited, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce your thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, in electronic form to be posted in Scholars' Mine, our institutional repository, and made available to the general public at no charge. This does not mean that the University owns the copyright to your work (you do), but the University has the right to reproduce and distribute your work. The University requires this to support the dissemination of intellectual thought and discovery.

Regardless of whether or not you register copyright for your thesis or dissertation, you should include a copyright notice in your thesis or dissertation. Including the notice helps to establish that you are the owner of the work. It also protects you, as the copyright holder, from anyone claiming innocent infringement or unintentional violation of copyright.

Using Copyrighted Materials

Any materials belonging to someone else used in your thesis or dissertation, beyond brief excerpts, may be used only with the written permission of the copyright owner. Publishers of books and journals hold the copyright for all materials they publish. Therefore, even if you are the sole or one of several authors of material in a published book or journal, you must obtain written permission from the copyright holder if you are including this material in your document. Also the use of reproductions or excerpts of other media, such as music, graphic images, or computer software will also require permissions.

Your letter to the copyright holder needs to make clear that you seek written permission to preserve (on microfilm and digitally) and publish (in print and digital form) your thesis or dissertation through ProQuest and that ProQuest may sell, on demand, for scholarly purposes, single copies of your work, which includes the copyright holder's material. Your letter must also seek written permission for the document to be submitted in electronic format to Curtis Laws Wilson Library where it will be placed in our institutional repository, Scholars' Mine, and made available at no charge to the general public  via the Internet.

You are responsible for securing all necessary permissions and paying any permission fees in advance of using copyrighted materials in your work. It is recommended that copies of the written permission you receive be placed in the appendix of your thesis or dissertation.

Using Your Own Previously Published Material

Some academic programs here at Missouri S&T permit you to include articles or other materials that you have previously published, that have been accepted (or submitted, in press, or under review) for publication, or that have been otherwise presented to the public within the body of your thesis or dissertation. This is referred to as the "Publication Option." In all such instances the following guidelines apply:

  • If the material is co-authored, your thesis or dissertation advisor must approve its inclusion in your thesis or dissertation.

If the material is copyrighted (if you are the sole author but the copyright is held by the publisher), you must fulfill the conditions specified above on using copyrighted materials. If you are unsure of the copyright status you should review the copyright transfer agreement you signed with the publisher and  consult with the Scholarly Communications Librarian.   The material, if included in the body of your text, must conform to all formatting guidelines.

Registering Copyright

You can register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. As mentioned above, copyright registration is not a condition for copyright protection. However, there are advantages to registration if you have a claim of infringement of your copyright. You can register at any time within the life of the copyright, but there are advantages to filing for registration within three months of publication. For more information on registration, consult the website of the U.S. Copyright Office or contact the Scholarly Communications Librarian.

There are two main ways for you to register your copyright:

  • You may request ProQuest to file the application for you when you submit your thesis or dissertation. ProQuest charges a fee for this service. The service includes preparing an application in your name, submitting your application fee, depositing the required copy or copies of the manuscript, and mailing you the completed certificate of registration from the Library of Congress.
  • Alternately, you can register your copyright directly at the U.S. Copyright website. There is also a copyright fee for filing copyright directly with the U.S. Copyright Office.