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Licensing Your Thesis For Reuse: Theses and Copyright

Theses and Copyright

Who owns copyright over my thesis?

Your thesis is an original work which is the product of your intellectual and creative labor. Therefore, upon its creation, you own the copyright over your thesis.

The document titled Política Institucional sobre Derechos de Autor de la Universidad de Puerto Rico (Certificación Número 93-140), which translates to Institutional Copyright Policy of the University of Puerto Rico*, covers this issue. Article VII of the document indicates:

"Faculty members and students of the University of Puerto Rico will be the owners of works created as part of their normal academic and scholarly activities, unless otherwise agreed. (...) Ownership of theses and other similar academic requirements corresponds to the student(s) who receive academic credit for them, unless otherwise agreed." *

Copyright exists from the moment your thesis goes from being an idea in your mind to a work fixed in a tangible medium. For copyright to exist, it is not necessary to register the work or notify any agency about its creation.

Copyright includes a series of exclusive rights over the work. It is often said that copyright is "a bundle of rights". These rights are:

  • The right to make copies of the work
  • The right to distribute the work
  • The right to create derivative works
  • The right to display or perform the work in public

Keep in mind that if you previously published content that you later included in your thesis, you may have transferred your copyright over said content to the publisher as part of the publication agreement. Make sure you check the status regarding this issue, since you may have to ask for permission from the copyright holder before depositing your thesis.

Author Addendums

Also remember that when you publish a work, you can negotiate the terms of the publication agreement to retain additional rights over the distribution of the work. You can do this by using an author addendum. To access the author addendums that the GRIC has developed for UPRM researchers, visit https://libguides.uprm.edu/choosing-where-to-publish/AuthorRights

More information on copyright

For more information on copyright, you can check out the following document: Copyright Basics (United States Copyright Office)

* The original document is in Spanish. This translation was made by the creators of this guide, and does not constitute an official institutionally-endorsed translation.

Copyright and Creative Commons

Creative Commons licenses do not contradict or eliminate copyright. When you assign a license to your work, copyright persists. Creative Commons licenses function within the framework of copyright, and therefore, their duration is tied to the duration of the copyright. When the copyright term expires, any Creative Commons license assigned to the work also ceases to exist, and the work goes into the public domain.

What Creative Commons licenses do is clearly state to the public that the author is giving certain permissions regarding use of their work by others, subject to certain conditions which are detailed in the license. This gives a sense of clarity to people who may want to use the work as to what they can and can't do. By making things clear, legal use of the work by others is facilitated.

Additional Protection

If the product, process, or method presented in your thesis, dissertation, or project report has commercial potential, it must be protected with a patent. This topic is covered in the document titled Política sobre Patentes, Invenciones y su Comercialización de la Universidad de Puerto Rico (Certificación Número 34 de 2018-2019), which translates to Policy on Patents, Inventions and Commercialization of the University of Puerto Rico.

There may be other reasons that justify restricting the visibility of your work. In any case, you have the option of placing an embargo on your work. An embargo will restrict access to your work for an established period of time. According to the regulations established by our campus's Office of Graduate Studies, embargoes in Scholar@UPRM can last up to two years.