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Copyright Issues

Students submitting theses/dissertations should be aware of copyright and fair use considerations.

What works are copyrightable?

Copyright is a protection provided to authors of original works in the United States. Copyright applies automatically when an original work is fixed in a tangible form of expression, including:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works: musical notation including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works
  • Computer programming

Poetry, recorded music, video footage, web pages, Java applets, and photographs are all examples of copyrightable expressions. However, exact duplications of public domain works, facts, ideas and systems, titles and short phrases, logos and slogans, forms that only collect information, and works created by U.S. Federal Government employees do not qualify as copyrightable.

What rights are covered by copyright?

The author generally owns copyright. Copyright law gives authors/owners of copyrighted work the exclusive rights to:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Make derivative works
  • Distribute copies of the work
  • Perform the work
  • Display the work
  • Perform the work publicly, in the case of sound recordings

However, in some cases in which an employee has done the work for their employer, known as “work for hire,” the employer owns the work.

GW Copyright Resources

Please refer to the following links for more information.

Fair Use (a legal doctrine permitting use of copyrighted material in limited circumstances)

Library Scholarly Communications (Copyright, Open Access, Author’s Rights, Research Impact)

Use of Your Previously Published Works in a Dissertation or Thesis

Copyright Permissions

Copyright Registration

GW Copyright Policy

Additional Resources

Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Toolkit: Copyright (Video: Educopia Institute, Kathleen Skinner)

Copyright Guidance Brief (PDF: Educopia Institute)

Questions about copyright?

Please make an appointment with Barrett Matthews (GW Libraries Compliance Officer, Copyright & Scholarly Communications).