Copyright can be a tricky topic for students working on their theses. With complex contractual language and so many rules and exceptions, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Luckily, University of Illinois Copyright Librarian Sara Benson is here to help!
Last month, Sara gave a Thesis Tools talk titled “Copyright and Your Thesis”, which described some of the copyright resources students might use as they complete their theses. Read on for a few of the key points that Sara shared and information about campus resources to help you navigate copyright law.
Do I own the copyright to my thesis?
Yes! According to the university’s policy, you keep the copyright to your thesis (unless you transfer your copyright to another party—such as a book or journal publisher). This means, if you want to publish parts of your thesis after you have deposited, you are free to do so without asking permission from the university! However, the university does require that you agree to make your work available in IDEALS, which is essentially an electronic archive for creative works produced at the University of Illinois. You can read more about IDEALS here.
What if I have already published part of my thesis?
One frequently asked question is: If I publish my work in a journal, do I need permission to use the article in my thesis? The answer: Maybe. Carefully reading the contract you signed can help you determine what steps you might need to take.
What if I want to use someone else’s work in my thesis?
One way to help you determine if you need copyright permission is to consult the fair use checklist. This checklist walks you through various factors (including what the purpose of your work is and how much of the copyrighted source you want to use) that will help you determine if you can use someone else’s work without obtaining permission. To learn more, check out Sara’s LibGuide or consult the Fair Use Evaluator from the American Library Association.
I have more questions. Where can I go for help?
There are a number of online resources available to help students with copyright questions. Check out Sara’s LibGudes on Copyright and Author’s Rights. The Thesis Office website has a page of Copyright Tools, that includes links to a Fair Use Checklist, a sample permission request letter, and several other useful pages. And when in doubt, you can always contact Sara with any questions or to set up a meeting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (217) 333-4200.
The “Copyright and Your Thesis” workshop was the first in a series of workshops titled Thesis Tools, which are sponsored by the Graduate College Thesis Office. These workshops touch on issues directly related to thesis development, writing, and deposit, with the aim of helping students at all stages of the thesis process. You can learn more about Thesis Tools Workshops on the Graduate College website.
Emily Wuchner is the Thesis Coordinator at the Graduate College. She is a PhD candidate in musicology at the University of Illinois, and her work focuses on music and social welfare in eighteenth-century Austria. In her free time, she enjoys playing the bassoon, watching sports, and hanging out with her calico cat, Gracie Sue.