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Where academic writing is involved, copyright is not only about protecting one’s work, it is critical to establishing their contribution to scholarly research. Learning the nuances of copyright law, understanding the relationship between copyright and fair use, and using copyright to advance scholarly opportunities is of utmost value to anyone writing a doctoral dissertation.

Information about copyright is readily available, but in the midst of the dissertation whirlwind, it can quickly become a costly afterthought. After all, the “copyright battles” we typically hear about almost always involve popular design, art, music or film. There are not a lot of instances where CourtTV features a grad student on trial for including protected materials in their dissertation without being granted the proper permission. Kenneth D. Crews, J.D., Ph.D. touches on this in his manual, “Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities.” He points out, “few copyright matters in higher education rise to that level.”

That being said – it can still happen. Although it is not the norm, one example is the Georgia State University fair use exception case that took place a few years ago.

However, Crews contends that when it comes to research and copyright, there are two basic concepts that are of importance: “respecting copyright…and the process of creating and sharing research,” and, “advance planning and strategic choices.” Upholding the integrity of research and using a bit of planning to avoid pitfalls are two integral components of copyright.

So, read up on copyright law, understand fair use, and avoid headaches by registering things properly -- got it. It seems pretty clear cut -- until it gets murky. For instance, if an American graduate student has been doing research, and writing a dissertation in China and Japan for two years, and wants to publish the work in the United States, exactly which copyright laws should he/she follow?

Scholarly work and research cross international borders regularly in this digital age. Thus, it has become necessary to understand the ramifications of the Berne Convention, and copyright law exceptions in different countries.

Those in the throes of their dissertation need not worry; not only is copyright information available, but it’s available from the same folks that have published over 3 million graduate works from graduate schools around the world since 1938. ProQuest Dissertation and Theses now has two links that guide researchers through the intricacies of copyright law:

1. “Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities,” is a manual designed to “help readers learn and understand copyright issues relevant to doctoral dissertations.”

2. In addition, “Copyright Laws Around the World” provides a summary of international copyright laws, including laws pertaining to the Berne Convention, as well as notable copyright exceptions in various countries.

Addressing copyright issues upfront not only protects the work, but upholds the integrity of research as well, and it ensures that the publication can be a significant contribution to the scholarly community. A simple understanding of copyright can empower the author and solidify the worth of their dissertation.

At ProQuest, we are committed to supporting authors by providing broad access to vital work that builds reputations, extends impact, and advances research. Each dissertation and thesis we have published is listed in our ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT) Global database, through which academic researchers around the world can gain access to your published graduate work.

For more information, visit

06 Dec 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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