Thesis and Dissertation Guide

IV. Copyrighting

A copyright is an intangible right granted to the author or originator of certain literary or artistic productions, under which they are invested for a limited period with the sole, exclusive privilege of making copies and publishing and selling them.

Copyright protection automatically exists from the time the work is created in fixed form. There is no requirement that the work be published or registered to obtain protection under copyright law. The copyright of any work immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work, unless it is a work-for-hire, or unless ownership has been assigned by written agreement.

Receipt of a submitted and approved thesis or dissertation in The Graduate School results in the publication of the document by the University Library at UNC-Chapel Hill. As such, each student grants the University a limited, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce the student's work, in whole or in part, in electronic form to be posted in the University Library database and made available to the general public at no charge. This does not mean that UNC-Chapel Hill owns the copyright to your work (you do), but the University has the right to reproduce and distribute your work. Public universities often require students to allow reproduction and distribution of academic work to support the dissemination of intellectual thought and discovery. Please review the Copyright Policy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for additional information.

Regardless of whether or not you register copyright for your thesis or dissertation, UNC-Chapel Hill requires that you include a copyright notice following the title page. See Section I of this Guide and the sample copyright page for the format of this notice. Including this page 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.

Registering Copyright

You may wish to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. As mentioned above, copyright registration is not a condition to copyright protection. There are, however, advantages to registration, especially if you have a claim of infringement of your copyright. Registration may be made 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.

There are two main ways for you to file for copyright of your thesis or dissertation:

  1. You may empower ProQuest to file the application on your behalf. When you submit your thesis or dissertation, ProQuest charges a fee for this service ($55, subject to change). 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.
  2. Alternately, you may file for copyright directly. Visit the following U.S. Copyright website for more information about registering your work. There is a copyright fee for filing copyright directly with the U.S. Copyright Office ($35, subject to change).

Using Copyrighted Materials

Any copyrighted materials used in your work, beyond brief excerpts, may be used only with the written permission of the copyright owner. Book and journal publishers normally 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. Remember that use of reproductions or excerpts of other media, such as music, graphic images, or computer software may 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 UNC-Chapel Hill where it will be placed in a database and made available through the University Library to the general public at no charge 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.

Use of Your Own Previously Published Material

Some academic programs 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. In all such instances the following guidelines apply:

  1. If the material is co-authored, your academic program must approve its inclusion in your thesis or dissertation.
  2. 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 in the section above on using copyrighted materials.
  3. The material, if included in the body of your text, must conform to all formatting guidelines outlined in this Guide. See the Formatting Previously Published Work section for details.

Previous: Format

Next: Submission