Theses and Dissertations

Copyright ownership in theses and dissertations at Rutgers

Rutgers thesis and dissertation authors hold copyright in their original theses and dissertations.

This is affirmed in the Rutgers University Copyright Policy, Section III:

“Students typically will own the copyright to works created as a requirement of their coursework, degree, or certificate program. The university, however, retains the right to use student works for pedagogical, scholarly, and administrative purposes.”

It is affirmed in the Legacy UMDNJ policies associated with Intellectual Property: Copyrights & Royalties, Section VII.A.2:

“Traditional Works of Scholarship as defined herein shall be deemed as having been created outside the scope of employment of the Creator. Copyright ownership of such works shall vest with the Creator.”

Understanding your thesis and dissertation agreements

Rutgers departments set their own requirements for thesis and dissertation deposit. Most departments require that dissertations be submitted electronically to the Rutgers open access digital repository, RUetd, for preservation and public access, allowing embargoes as a matter of choice for the student author. The Rutgers system for deposit of electronic thesis and dissertations (referred to as ETDs) was established in 2007. Before that, dissertations were considered “unpublished”. They are now considered “published” unless the author places an embargo on the thesis or dissertation. When depositing a thesis or dissertation in RUetd, you grant a non-exclusive right to RUL to archive, reproduce, and distribute the thesis or dissertation.

Many departments also continue to partner with ProQuest, (formerly ProQuest/UMI) a company whose thesis and dissertation publishing business has its origins in University Microfilms International (UMI) that began in 1938 to partner with academic institutions to archive and provide access to theses and dissertations.  For many years UMI served as a national archive of theses and dissertations, also expanding their scope to international theses and dissertations. ProQuest continues to serve as a trusted full-text archive of theses and dissertations and has been recognized as Offsite Digital Repository by the Library of Congress. For departments that also require submission to ProQuest, you grant ProQuest the right to reproduce and distribute your thesis or dissertation under traditional or open access publishing.

Rutgers Electronic Theses & Dissertations (RUetd) Deposit Agreement

At Rutgers, generally authors submit dissertations to RUetd for archiving and public access. Some departments also require that masters’ theses be submitted to RUetd.

As an author, you will sign a deposit agreement granting a non-exclusive right to Rutgers to archive, reproduce, and distribute your thesis or dissertation. Your thesis or dissertation is considered “published” in RUetd unless it is embargoed.

In some situations, a thesis or dissertation author may need to delay public availability, or “publication,” of his or her work. For this purpose, authors are offered an option to embargo their work. When submitting the thesis or dissertation, you may choose to make it immediately available to the global public or to embargo the work. RUcore offers embargo periods of six months, one year, or two years. Typical reasons for choosing embargos are a student’s wish to produce a scholarly book or article related to the research before the thesis or dissertation is made available to the public, to maximally benefit from your own research before others do, to enhance research on the topic before the thesis or dissertation is made available to the public, to comply with patent or technology transfer requirements, or to comply with data privacy requirements.

Because you hold the copyright in the thesis or dissertation, you have the right to make the work publicly available in the manner and at the time you choose.

ProQuest Publishing Agreement

If your department requires submission of your thesis or dissertation to ProQuest, you will also sign a Publishing Agreement, granting a non-exclusive, worldwide right for ProQuest to preserve your thesis or dissertation and make it publicly available.  It is your responsibility to read and understand this agreement. You should also read the accompanying FAQ.

You will make several choices in signing this agreement.

  1. You will have two publishing options to consider:
  • Traditional Publishing allows ProQuest to distribute copies. ProQuest will pay royalties of 10% of its net revenue from sales of your work.  There is no fee with the implementation of the online publishing agreement form in 2018.
  • Open Access Publishing PLUS allows ProQuest to make the thesis or dissertation  available for free download to public and may offer copies of the work for sale, but will not pay royalties to the author. The fee for this option is $95.
  1. In either case, you may choose to delay access to the full text of your work by choosing to embargo it. ProQuest offers embargo period of six months, one year, or two years.
  1. Whether to allow major search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo) to discover your work. Discoverability of your work through search engines increases the chance that others will read and utilize your work in their scholarship. This may be more desirable for some authors and less desirable for others.
  1. Whether to register the copyright in your thesis or dissertation, and if so, whether to take advantage of ProQuest’s service to register the copyright on your behalf. Your work is copyrighted as an original work upon its creation. Copyright registration is not required as a condition for obtaining copyright and is optional, but has certain advantages. See FAQ on copyright registration.
  • If you wish to register the copyright in your thesis or dissertation, you may file a basic electronic copyright registration directly with the U.S. Copyright Office for $35 or file a basic registration using print submission for $65 (fees as of January 2015).
  • If you choose to have ProQuest submit an application on your behalf, the cost will be $55 through ProQuest (fees as of January 2015). Your thesis or dissertation will be registered as a published work.

Use of third party materials in your thesis or dissertation

Among the decisions a student makes when authoring a thesis or dissertation is the extent to which third-party copyrighted works are used to support an analysis, provide background information, serve as evidence, or in any other way to support the student’s analysis. The scholarly process involves assimilating and building on previous scholarship. This typically means quoting other authors, visualizing ideas with images (photographs, charts, diagrams, graphs, maps), utilizing previously created data, or incorporating musical works, sound recordings, or audiovisual works into your work.

When using works created by others, it is your responsibility to ensure that your use falls within the within the scope of the fair useexception or within the terms of any license associated with the work.  If the license does not permit the use, or if your use would be considered to exceed the scope of the fair use exception, then you may need to obtain permission from the copyright holder to use the third-party work in your thesis or dissertation.

General rules of thumb:

  • Fair use supports use of an amount appropriate to your research objectives and closely tied to critical analysis.
  • Always provide attribution in the form of a citation.
  • Use of archival material also customarily involves a credit line to the archive.
  • Ensure that there are no concerns related to privacy and publicity rights, confidentiality, patents, trademarks, contracts, licenses, other laws or regulations that would violate the rights of others.
  • Uses should not interfere with the market for the original work.
  • If any license agreement applies to the works you wish to use, you need to consult the license terms. Many online licenses permit noncommercial scholarly uses or permit fair use of works.
  • Generally you should not alter or modify any third party work being used in your dissertation without permission from the copyright holder.

It is the student’s responsibility to obtain permissions for uses that exceed fair use or for which fair use does not apply. Your adviser may be able to help you in making fair use assessments on use of third-party works.

When using unlicensed works under the fair use exception, remember that fair use supports reasonable, limited, scholarly uses of material in amounts appropriate to your research objectives and closely tied to your critical analysis. Fair use is a sliding scale. If you are in doubt about using a third-party copyrighted work, it may be helpful to use part of a work rather than the entire work, or to use a smaller portion, or to use fewer third party copyrighted works in your thesis or dissertation, or to use a low resolution rather than a high resolution image, if you can effectively create your analysis in this way.

ProQuest and fair use

This responsibility is reflected in the ProQuest Publishing Agreement which requires each author to represent and warrant that he or she has obtained all necessary rights to permit ProQuest to reproduce and distribute third party materials contained in any part of the thesis or dissertation and to agree that he or she will indemnify ProQuest/UMI for any third party claims related to the thesis or dissertation as submitted for publication.

ProQuest provides a useful guide that explains this process. “Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis” outlines the kinds of materials for which ProQuest might require you to obtain permission from a copyright holder, and provides a sample permission letter. See also Obtaining Permissions in this website.

ProQuest also provides the manual Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities, that contains helpful scenarios for the dissertation author.

RUetd and fair use

The RUetd deposit agreement confirms that the responsibility for obtaining copyright permissions rests with the student. It requires each author to represent that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract do not infringe or violate any rights of others and that the author has obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in the thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by the graduate school. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain permissions for uses that exceed fair use or for which fair use does not apply. Your adviser may be able to help you in making fair use assessments on use of third-party works.