PART I: Copyright and Scholarship
The Nature of the Problem
Completing your dissertation and earning the graduate degree can be one of the most exhilarating and satisfying moments of your career. It is also a time of enormous responsibility. In addition to meeting the demands of your committee and university-and anticipating a new career-your graduate work might also have given you some acquaintance with copyright law. Whether you knew it or not, you were creating copyright protected works as you drafted paragraphs or wrote lines of computer programming. You also were brushing the line between "fair use" and unlawful infringement whenever you downloaded information, printed from a website, or photocopied an article. Copyright law will become increasingly important in your academic, research, or business career; copyright is also crucial right now as you complete your dissertation. You have created a dissertation that advances knowledge in your field; the law establishes important rights of ownership and control over your new contributions. Copyright also imposes important responsibilities when you use the creative works of other authors.
Your dissertation will likely include quotations, pictures, charts, standard tests, or other materials created by other authors. Just as the law gives you rights, it also gives other authors rights to their materials. You may, therefore, need to seek permission before borrowing the "expression" of other works. Encounters with copyright will expand as technology allows new ways to locate resources and use them in your studies, and as the means for distributing copies of your dissertation evolve. Many of these changes have been brought on by the profound implications of the Internet. Through this vast network, a researcher today may easily find and download copyright protected materials-raising questions of fair use-and possibly commit violations of the law by further disseminating someone else's copyrighted works-even if those works are buried deep inside your lengthy dissertation.
The struggle between copyright and academics is often sensitive and confusing. The growth of
knowledge depends heavily on using the earlier efforts of other scholars. Borrowing ideas or facts
is usually not constrained by copyright, but copying text, music, or artistic expression from others
may require permission. Some academicians object when permission requirements seem to sidetrack
scholarly inquiry, or when permissions are not forthcoming. Obtaining those permissions is often
simple and expedient, but the process can become time-consuming, costly, and disappointing if
permissions are not immediately granted.
To ease tensions between scholarly growth and owners' rights, copyright law provides a right of "fair use" that allows limited copying-such as short quotations-without consent. Fair use is especially applicable to scholarship, teaching, and research, although its limits are not precise. Congress deliberately left fair use vague, and the amount of allowable copying depends on a variety of circumstances. This manual will explore fair use and explain how it can apply to your dissertation. It will help you make decisions about the amount of copying that may be allowed, and when you should seek permission. You must dispel one common misconception: scholarly uses, even after giving full credit and citations, are not exempt from the obligations of copyright law.
Notice the difference between copyright and plagiarism. You long ago learned to footnote your use of other writers' words and ideas. Claiming them as your own is unethical and intellectually dishonest. Copyright is concerned about something other than credit-a proper footnote is not enough. If you use someone else's protected work beyond lawful limits, you may have committed an infringement, even if you attribute full credit to the original author. Copyright is also concerned with "expression." Ideas are not copyrightable. Your dissertation may expound on the latest scientific or literary theories without necessarily raising copyright issues, but you must scrutinize uses of someone else's words, pictures, and other tangible "expressions."
Amidst these obligations you can find important reassurance from the law's balance: just as you must show respect for others, so must they respect the new dissertation you are about to complete. For most graduate students, the dissertation is your first major work. It may be the first piece of research predominantly within your control; it may be the first significant expression of your thinking and study. It may also be your first independent publication. A copy will probably be available at your university's library, and you will probably give UMI permission to sell copies to the public. Whether through UMI or your own university, you may also make your dissertation available on the Internet or through another retrieval system. When your dissertation moves from the relative seclusion of the campus to becoming readily available to researchers everywhere, you are stepping from the realm of scholarship into the arena of publishing, and your responsibilities grow. You will have done your best to contribute to the scholarship of your discipline, but now you also have the obligation to strike a legal and ethical balance: protecting your rights under the law, and showing respect for the rights of others.
Spotting Problems in the Dissertation
A central objective of this manual is to prevent problems that graduate students often discover only after filing their dissertations. Although much of this discussion will focus on UMI as the prospective publisher of your dissertation, you will face many of the same issues whether your dissertation is published through a book publisher or on your university's Web server. Once your dissertation reaches UMI offices, staff members prepare it for publication and identify substantial uses of copyrighted materials that may need permission. Missing permissions may delay publication of your work. Without the permissions, you may need to alter your work to eliminate the potential problems. If the copying is extensive, UMI may choose not to publish your dissertation at all; it may be listed in the database of dissertations, but not be available for purchase.
The quest for permissions and the difficulties of fair use become increasingly problematic as dissertations evolve from text to multimedia formats. New formats offer the potential for reproducing whole works and rapidly distributing multiple copies. Proprietors of motion pictures or sound media are often highly protective of their works, and copyright owners of other media are simply not accustomed to receiving requests and granting permissions for scholarly needs. If your dissertation ventures into new technological territory, you might be venturing into unfamiliar copyright dilemmas as well. Careful advance planning is essential.
UMI receives over 50,000 dissertations each year for publication. Most works still arrive in print form, but more and more are embodying diverse media. Nearly fifteen percent of all dissertations submitted to UMI lack all needed permissions. Avoid the agony of that large group. Once you file your dissertation and receive your degree, further revisions would probably be the least welcome task. Look critically at your dissertation, and obtain permissions at the earliest opportunity. Now is the time to develop a good habit. You may publish articles or a book based on your dissertation, and you will likely write articles and books for years to come. As you create new publications from your dissertation or based on future research, you will find that most publishers hold firmly to a basic policy: substantial copying requires permission from copyright owners.
2. This manual focuses only on copyright. Your use of various resources
may pose other legal challenges, such as issues of privacy, defamation, and misappropriation.
Moreover, if your study involves the use of names and images of individuals, those individuals
may have "rights of publicity" under state law that could limit commercial uses of their voices
and images. Your university will also likely have a "human subjects" policy applicable to interviews
for research. Consult your faculty advisor, campus legal counsel, or office of research and grants
for further advice.
3. This manual focuses on copyright, and consequently does not explain the
many other closely related issues, such as plagiarism.
3. This manual focuses on copyright, and consequently does not explain the many other closely related issues, such as plagiarism.