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Copyright in Your Thesis or Dissertation

1.     Can I include music in my thesis or dissertation?

Copyright protects many different types of works, including musical works, sound recordings, textual works, and images. If you are using copyright protected works in your thesis or dissertation, you will need to determine if your use is permissible under the law. This means receiving permission from the copyright owner or relying on the statutory exception of fair use.

The fair use of a work is determined based on the balancing of four factors: the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis and will require you to evaluate how and why you are including copyrighted works in your thesis or dissertation; using only the amount of the work needed to support your scholarship will help to strengthen your fair use defense.

Works in the public domain are free of copyright protections and may be used without restriction. Works available under an open license may be used according to the terms of the license.

2.     What rights do I have as an author?

As a student, you own the copyright in your thesis or dissertation and may control how your work is reproduced, adapted, distributed, displayed, or performed. You may choose to retain all of these rights or transfer your rights to another person or entity, such as a publisher. Only sign a publishing agreement after you have read and understand the terms of the agreement.

By including a copyright notice, you let others know your ownership in the work. If you would like others to be able to use your work, clearly and publicly communicate your terms of use.

3.     Who can access my thesis or dissertation?

Master’s theses, dissertations, and DMA documents must be electronically submitted to OhioLINK to meet graduation requirements as well as for storage and online access. In addition, PhD and DMA documents are archived through ProQuest/UMI. The full text of your thesis or dissertation will be openly available to the public now and in the future.  

4.     How do I remove content from my thesis or dissertation?

You may not be permitted to change documents that have been accepted to complete degree requirements, so carefully consider the materials you wish to include in your work prior to submission. OhioLINK considers material in the ETD Center to be a record of completed work and removal may only be permitted under certain circumstances.

OSU policy is to disseminate all dissertations as soon as possible. In certain situations, electronic distribution of your dissertation may be delayed through an embargo request for a period of one to five years. A petition to delay publication will be reviewed and granted by the Graduate School.

Have questions? Contact the OSU Copyright Resources Center:, 614-688-5849.