Author information

A number of issues pertaining to the author's rights and permissions need to be taken into account when access to the full text. In addition, a growing number of institutions require the author to deposit an electronic copy into the institutional repository upon submission.

In 2008, EThOS recommended the implementation of a revised deposit agreement for both paper and e-theses for any institution that intended to make its theses openly available via its own repository and/or EThOS. Although e-submission into institutional repositories is now a common process for doctoral theses, the following model agreements and letters may still be useful for institutions seeking guidance:
  • Model deposit agreement (2008, not revised)
  • Letter 1: Letter from an author to the publisher seeking permission to include in a thesis material written by the author in which copyright has been assigned to the publisher.
  • Letter 2: Letter from the author to a publisher or other third party asking for permission to include material in which the copyright belongs to the publisher/third party.
While new or revised deposit agreements will be in place for the majority of theses awarded in recent years, it is less likely that permission for the digitisation and electronic storage of older theses with paper-based deposit agreements will have been granted. In order to provide access to these theses via EthOS, therefore, the Library would have to contact authors directly.

Given the number of theses within copyright, this would not only be a difficult, time-consuming and very expensive process, but it would also severely limit the number of theses which could be made available in EThOS. Evidence has also indicated that when permission has been sought from authors, they are generally keen to increase access to their research and make their thesis openly available.

EThOS digitises, stores and distributes existing theses and any submitted outside e-deposit agreements without obtaining specific distribution rights. The EThOS system, therefore, adopts an ‘opt-out’ approach rather than 'opt-in'. The benefits and impact of EthOS are discussed here.

Should any author object to their theses being made available via EThOS, a Thesis takedown policy and workflow is in place to facilitate removing theses from the service.

This ‘opt-out’ approach is mitigated by the following factors:
  • EThOS will only accept theses from the awarding institution
  • It is entirely at the awarding institution’s discretion whether they supply a thesis or not
  • In a large number of cases the author has given permission to supply their thesis in the past via the Thesis Agreement Form, though not specifically to be stored or distributed in digital form
  • When EThOS was launched a major publicity campaign was undertaken via alumni magazines and the press to ask authors to get in touch with their institution if they did not want their thesis made available.
In addition, embargos will be respected at two levels:
  1. The current institution can choose not to supply the thesis or the thesis record in the first place.
  2. The system holds an embargo date and will not make a thesis available before that date.
From a legal point of view, there is a risk of action by an author against the system should it make the author’s thesis available without permission. The following factors mitigate that risk:
  • The Thesis takedown policy and workflow
  • The system operates on a cost-recovery basis i.e. no-one profits from the author's work
  • The intention of the system is positive i.e. to benefit the author, the institution and UK research.
The risk of action by an author against the system is considered low. This reinforced the decision to adopt an ‘opt-out’ approach for EThOS.

Any institutions that wish to contact authors in connection with making their work available in an institutional repository and/or EThOS may find the following sample letters useful:
  • Letter 3: Letter from an institution to the author informing them that their thesis will be included in an institutional repository and EThOS when a request is made by a third party for access to the thesis unless they opt out
  • Letter 4: Letter from an institution to the author stating that an electronic copy of their thesis will be placed in EThOS unless they opt out, when the institution already has permission to digitise and make available a digital copy of the thesis via the institutional repository
  • Letter 5: Letter from an institution to the author seeking permission to digitise a thesis (or to be given a digitised copy) and place it in the institutional repository and EThOS.
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