ETDs: Copyright

Current info for Graduate Students about electronic theses and dissertations.

Rights of copyright holders

Copyright for Authors, Researchers, and Scholars from the Digital Library and Archives at Virginia Tech's University Libraries

As the author of your ETD you own the copyright and you make decisions about sharing or relinquishing some or all of these rights.

  1. Reproduction
  2. Modification
  3. Distribution
  4. Public performance
  5. Public display

As of March 1, 1989, the copyright warning does not have to appear for a work to be legally copyrighted. However, it is a good idea to remind people of your copyrights by including:

© 2017 by [your name]

Consider adding statements that grant permission or limit use. See Permissions column on the far right.

Copyright and Creative Commons


Copyright Law: U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 102
original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which they can be communicated
  • Copyright is automatic (no © required)
  • Copyright registration is not required
  • Payment is not required

US Copyright Office
      Circulars and Factsheets
      Copyright Basics (2008)

Why registering your copyright? To possibly receive greater compensation with less documentation when filing an infringement suit.

How? Fees



Permission to use a copyrighted work is NOT required if:

  • Creative Commons license [see below also]
    • Adding a CC license changes its copyright from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.”
  • Facts or ideas
  • Public domain: A work is not protected by copyright and may be freely used by everyone.
  • Fair use: Use someone else's work without permission after you consider ALL 4 FAIR USE FACTORS and the majority weigh in your favor and not in favor of the copyright holder.
  1. Purpose and character of use
  • Commercial or educational use
  • For profit or not
  • Degree of transformation; value added
  • For criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research

2.  Nature of the copyrighted work

  • Character of the work (consider factual vs. fiction)
  • Worthy of (extensive) protection?

3.  Amount, substantiality

  • Use only what's necessary
  • Quantity and quality in relation to the whole work

4.  Effect

  • Harm tor potential harm to the market of a work after a portion has been used separately from the whole

Fair Use Analyzer Tool

Advice about Signing Agreements with Publishers

Search Sherpa RoMEO  for publishers copyright policies

Sample letter to request permission


Creative Commons Licenses

Let people know through a Creative Commons license whether and how they may use your work.


Public Domain - no known copyright

The Public Domain mark by Creative Commons indicates that neither you nor anyone else currently has rights to the work. Common reasons for a work to be in the public domain include because its copyright has expired, because it was created by a government body, or because it is factual and therefore does not meet the copyright standard for original creative expression. The Public Domain mark is most often appropriate for texts and images published before the early 20th century, government documents, datasets, graphs, and charts.


CC0 - no rights reserved

CC0 ("Creative Commons Zero") enables you to waive your rights in your works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance, and reuse your works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.


Creative Commons - some rights reserved

Creative Commons licenses allow you to retain some rights: this option will let you decide and declare whether to allow or refuse permission for commercial uses of your work, whether to allow or refuse permission to modify your work, or whether to allow modifications of your work only on the condition that modifiers also allow others to modify the new work ("ShareAlike").


No Creative Commons license

You need not specify a Creative Commons license or mark for the work you are uploading, but in that case, people who find the content online will not know whether or how they are permitted to use, share, redistribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work.