As author of a dissertation, you will own all copyrights.
Optionally, you can register your copyright (or have ProQuest do it for you, for a fee). Registering copyright strengthens your legal standing in the event of litigation.
Allowing BC to post your dissertation in its institutional repository does not alter your copyright ownership; you—as the author—retain copyright.
If you choose the option to provide access to your work in eScholarship@BC, you will also be offered the option to apply a Creative Commons license to your work. As the copyright holder, you can reserve all rights (users can make use of your work for individual study and research and can reuse fair use portions of the work). Creative Commons licenses allow you to define broader reuse rights in advance without requiring users to ask for permission.
If you do not choose to provide access in eScholarship@BC, the Creative Commons licenses will not appear as a choice. You may decline the Creative Commons option or choose to apply one of six Creative Commons licenses. There is no fee to use these licenses.
Optionally, you can request that the full text of your dissertation NOT be accessible until after a specified time period (usually 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years). You might need an embargo while you are preparing a publication based on your dissertation; check with your publisher regarding their "prior publication" policy. Check with your Dean's office to see if your school has adopted a policy regarding length of embargoes.
If you have previously published work that you wish to include in your dissertation (such as a journal article included as a chapter), you should check the publishing agreement or the publisher's website to determine what the publisher's policies are concerning the reuse of this material in a dissertation. Many publishing agreements allow authors to use their article in a dissertation, but it's important to read and understand the rights that you retain when you sign. If you are considering using an article as part of your dissertation, you can negotiate with the publisher at submission to retain the right to reuse it.
If you do not still have the rights to use your work, you will need to ask for permission from the publisher to reuse it. Along with obtaining proper permission, please include any set statements that the publisher requires, which often consist of the full attribution of the published work in the dissertation.
Students who wish to publish their dissertation in book or article format sometimes ask whether publishers will consider dissertations that are available open access and full-text online to be prior publications. It is impossible to provide a single definitive answer to which all publishers adhere. Publication policies are quite diverse and it is probable that most publishers have no ETD policy at all.
Most dissertations that are later turned into books or journal articles are heavily revised in the process; the subsequent book or article is really quite different from the original dissertation. In such cases most publishers would not be worried that an open access ETD was a prior publication. Still, it may be wise to be cautious. If students plan to publish a dissertation they should consult potential publishers beforehand if they are concerned that making their dissertation open access will be considered a prior publication.
Students may also request an embargo period during which their dissertation will not be openly accessible.
MIT has provided a helpful chart that indicates selected publishers' policies on inclusion of previously published articles in a scholar's dissertation and their policies on acceptance of articles previously published as part of an eTD.
For more information on this topic, including statistical analysis, please read An Investigation of ETDS as prior publications: Findings from the 2011 NDLTD Publishers’ Survey. You may also want to read the article in the Libraries" newsletter: Frequently Asked: eTDs and Prior Publication.
Electronic Theses & Dissertations at Boston College
Attend one of the workshops (offered each semester) that explain the eTD@BC online submission system.
When you are ready to begin the online submission of your dissertation, click on the following link:
If you have any questions or experience any difficulties, please email the ETD administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This guide is designed to provide basic, general information about copyright, and does not constitute legal advice. The links to third party sites in this guide are provided for your convenience. Boston College does not take responsibility for the content of these other sites. If you have a question about a specific copyright issue not addressed by this guide, the Libraries encourage you to seek further advice.
If you have questions about this guide or a basic copyright issue encountered in your work, and need more help please contact Jane Morris, Head of Scholarly Communication and Research or the subject liaison for your department.
If you have a question about the University’s policies regarding copyright, please contact the Office of Technology Transfer and Licensing at 2-1682. If you have a question that requires the advice of an attorney, please contact the Office of the General Counsel at 2-0960.