Your Document and Copyright

The U.S. Copyright Act sets forth in Section 102(a) that copyright protection vests immediately and automatically upon the creation of "original works of authorship" that are "fixed in any tangible medium of expression." Copyright applies to all tangible mediums including but not limited to text, computer programs, music, paintings, drawings, graphics, and charts. Copyright is a protection for you as an author. As an author, you also have to be aware of the copyrights of other authors and ensure that your thesis does not include any unauthorized use of copyrighted material of others or any use of your own material for which you have signed away the copyright.

    Copyright Your Dissertation

    Copyright vests immediately upon the creation of your work. It is helpful if you include a copyright notice on your dissertation. A notice often takes this form:

    Copyright 2010 Jane Student

    or you can use the copyright symbol.

    Life of Copyright

    The duration of the copyright on a work depends upon when it was first published or put into a fixed medium of expression. Circular 15a from the Copyright Office provides a detailed explanation of the provisions concerning duration of copyright. Circular 15t explains the extensions of copyright terms granted by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998.


    Request permission from the copyright owner before using their material whether it is published or unpublished. Document your request by keeping copies of any letters or email correspondence. You can find some information from the publisher's website or by sending emails to the contacts that handle permissions for the various publishers. Allow time to get necessary permissions prior to the date your dissertation is submitted. It is recommended that you start obtaining permissions at least four months before filing your dissertation. Permission letters for previously published materials within your thesis must make it clear that an electronic copy of your dissertation may be published online in the OHSU Digital Commons.

    Be sure and keep your permissions with your personal thesis files in case any inquires arise.

    Determination of Fair Use

    Fair use requires analysis of all four factors before reaching a conclusion.

    • Purpose of use.. Nonprofit educational uses are favored over commercial uses.
    • Nature of work used.This factor examines the characteristics of the work being used. Courts more readily favor the fair use of nonfiction, rather than fiction and consider that unpublished materials may weigh against fair use.
    • Amount of use. Amount is measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. No exact measures of allowable quantity exist in the law.
    • Effect on the market. If you make a use for which a purchase of an original should have occurred, then this factor may weigh against fair use.

    University Microfilms Inc.

    Credit for much of the information on this page goes to: Kenneth D. Crews. "Copyright Law and Graduate Research: New Media, New Rights, and Your New Dissertation", University Microfilms, 1996, which can be found on the UMI website. It would be highly advisable to consult this publication during the preparation of your thesis to inform yourself of the issues surrounding the use of copyrighted materials.

    For further information about copyright see the following websites:

    Using your Previously Published Works in your Document

    If you want to use your previously published work(s) in your document or dissertation, you should contact your publisher for permission. If you know in advance that you want to use the article/book chapter in your document/dissertation, you can modify the author's agreement before you sign. The majority of publishers understand the role of graduate work and usually accommodate this exception to copyright.