Starting Spring 2021, students submitting their theses on ProQuest will have the option of including a signed Author Deposit Agreement with their thesis deposit. The Author Deposit Agreement addresses 1) your use of others’ work as you write your thesis and 2) the rights of copyright you hold once your thesis is complete. Please review the information below to make sure you understand how copyright affects your thesis.

The agreement addresses your responsible use of others’ work as you develop the content of your thesis.  By signing the agreement, you are affirming that you have not committed plagiarism.  Plagiarism is the use of another person’s words or ideas without providing proper credit: it is passing someone else’s words or ideas off as your own. 

By signing the agreement, you are also affirming that you have not committed copyright infringement.  This means that you have secured permission from a copyright holder to use their work—in instances that require it—and provided proper acknowledgement of this process in your thesis.

To better understand how copyright intersects with your thesis, consider the writing process.  As you’ve been writing your thesis, you’ve naturally integrated others’ work into your own through a Literature Review or a Background section.  You might be analyzing a piece of music, exploring archival collections, or studying works of art from a particular era.  In all of these cases, you are drawing on the work of others to develop your own.  In most of these cases, copyright will play a role. 

Most basically, copyright is the collection of exclusive rights granted to the author of an original work such as a literary work, sound recording, painting, or piece of computer software.  Think of copyright as the author’s property rights.  It includes things like the right to reproduce and distribute one’s own work.  These rights reward authors and encourage them to continue producing works that the public can benefit from.  For example, if an author had no control over how their work was used or attributed—if someone could just take their work and use it however they wished—there would be much less motivation to share that work with the world.

When you use others' work, then, copyright will play a role.  Given this understanding, there are three ways you can use someone else’s work in your thesis.  First, you can use resources in the public domain.  Resources in the public domain aren’t subject to copyright restrictions.  A work’s copyright might have expired, or it might not have fallen under copyright protections in the first place.  Additionally, an author may dedicate their work to the public domain through a creative commons license. 

Second, you may be able to use an author’s work according to fair use.  Fair use guidelines help you determine whether you need to secure permission to use someone else's work. The guidelines balance a number of factors, including the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount or substance you plan to use, the nature of your work, and the effect your use has on the work in question.  The UI Libraries provides a rich overview of issues related to copyright and fair use, including a Fair Use Analysis Checklist.  The liaison librarian for your discipline can also provide guidance as you complete your work.

Finally, if a work is not in the public domain, and if a fair use analysis does not support its use without permission, you will need to seek permissions from the copyright holder (importantly, the author and the copyright holder may not be the same).  Once you complete this process, it must be acknowledged in the thesis.

Note: If you are including prior publications in your thesis, check the publication agreement you signed to determine copyright ownership and whether the agreement permits the work’s reuse.  If you are including a co-authored work and the co-authors still retain copyright, be sure to follow any agreements made regarding its reuse.  Do not assume you are the sole copyright holder of a work that you’ve completed with others.

The agreement also confirms the rights you have once your thesis is complete.  By submitting your thesis to the Graduate College, you grant the University of Iowa the nonexclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display, and transmit your ETD to make it available to the public through Iowa Research Online.  Other than those rights granted to ProQuest and to the University of Iowa needed to make your ETD available online, you retain all other rights to the copyright in your work, including the right to use it in other works such as articles and books. 

As a public institution, the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to providing access to the theses and dissertations of all graduates through the UI Institutional Repository (IR).  Sharing rights allows the University to create a copy of your thesis and make it available in Iowa Research Online, the University Libraries’ Institutional Repository.  Should you place an embargo on your thesis, your thesis will be made available after the embargo period expires.