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Theses & Dissertations

Copyright is an important component to publishing your dissertation or thesis. Students should consider copyright as early in their work as possible, especially if you wish to reuse content from another copyright holder, such as images or figures. Here are some details on things that students should consider when reviewing their copyright needs and uses.


For additional information and resources on copyright, please visit the Copyright Guide

Determining Copyright Ownership

Under Carnegie Mellon University’s Intellectual Property Policy, you most likely own the copyright to your dissertation. However, if the research was sponsored by the university or conducted under an agreement between an external sponsor and the university, check the agreement to see who owns the intellectual property. When in doubt, consult Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC), 412-268-7393 or

Neither the University Libraries nor ProQuest/UMI require copyright transfer to publish your dissertation. Both require only the non-exclusive right to reproduce and distribute your work.

Copyright Permissions

According to the Fair Use Policy of Carnegie Mellon University, all members of the University community must comply with U.S. Copyright Law. When a proposed use of copyrighted material does not fall within the fair use doctrine and is not otherwise permitted by license or exception, written permission from the copyright owner is required to engage in the use.

To avoid publication delays, Carnegie Mellon’s Office of the General Counsel encourages graduate students to get permission from copyright holders as early in the dissertation process as possible. This includes permission to use your own previously published work if you transferred your copyright to the publisher. See Copyright Issues Related to the Publication of Dissertations for more information.

If you choose to publish your dissertation with ProQuest/UMI, you must sign an agreement indicating that you have the necessary copyright permissions, and provide UMI with copies of the permission letters. If you choose to publish with Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, you need not provide copies of the permission letters. The assumption is that you have complied with university policy.

Registering Your Copyright

The Copyright Law of the United States gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to copy and distribute the work, perform and display it publicly, and create derivative works. Copyright owners do not need to register their work with the U.S. Copyright Office to acquire these rights. However, if you own the copyright to your dissertation and you have a compelling need to acquire additional legal rights, such as the right to file a copyright infringement lawsuit, then you should register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.

You can register your copyright using the U.S. Copyright Office’s eCO Online System for a fee of $35. Alternatively, if you choose to publish your work with ProQuest/UMI, UMI will register your copyright for you for a fee of $55. (See page 6 of the ProQuest Publishing Agreement.)