Deposit Agreements

A deposit licence should give managers of repositories the rights they require to store, organise and manage repository content. This section outlines the areas that should be considered when developing a deposit licence to govern the deposit of a thesis by students into an e-thesis repository.

Although e-submission into institutional repositories is now a common process for doctoral theses, the archived model deposit agreement available for download may still be a useful reference point for institutions.


Ownership rights issues arise both with incoming content, known as upstream rights, and also with outgoing content at the other end, known as downstream rights. Licences are an excellent way to manage this process legally, by providing a framework to systematically allocate and identify rights. Such agreements should ideally be comprehensively gathered at source from the original owner so rights can effectively be passed down the management chain through the institution to the end user with minimal effort. In all cases an agreement from the depositor, henceforth called a deposit licence, is required to cover the special requirements necessary to store, organise and manage repository content. A comprehensive deposit licence agreement should cover a number of core topics, including a depositor’s declaration, the repository’s rights and responsibilities and the re-use terms and conditions. The following sections discuss the individual elements required for each of these agreements before a suitable licence is constructed for repositories to use.


It is also desirable for the host institution of a repository to protect itself legally in case of any future dispute as to the repository content. The deposit licence should clearly indicate that the repository is not responsible for any mistakes, omissions or infringements in the deposited work. Furthermore, in the event of a breach of intellectual property rights, or other laws including defamation, the repository should indicate that it is not under any obligation to take legal action on behalf of the original author, or other rights holders, or to accept liability for any legal action arising from any such breaches.

Access and Distribution Rights

The depositing author needs to grant to the host repository a number of permissions and conditions with respect to online access to their work. This is normally implemented in conjunction with a declaration from the depositor. The main function of this depositor’s declaration is to ensure that the depositor is the copyright owner, or if by proxy, has the permission of author/copyright holder to deposit. Equally important is to determine whether the author has sought and gained permission to include any subsidiary material owned by third-party copyright holders.

Digital Preservation

Even though individual requirements may differ between institutions, the majority of working institutional repositories insert clauses into the deposit licence to allow for future acts of digital preservation to be carried out. Any deposit licence for digital materials must consider the following clauses to allow for future digital preservation efforts (Preservation Management of Digital Materials: A Handbook, Jones and Beagrie, accessed 28/07/2009):
  1. Permissions needed for copying for the purposes of preservation;
  2. Permissions needed for future migration of content to new formats for the purposes of preservation;
  3. Permissions needed for emulation for the purposes of preservation.

Metadata and Item Removal

The next significant part of the deposit licence is to determine the access, distribution, removal and ownership rights to any catalogue or metadata records associated with the item. For some items the repository may need the right to incorporate metadata into public access catalogues and to determine protocols for the removal of such records from the catalogues should the need arise.

Deposit Licence for e-thesis repositories

A deposit licence should give managers of repositories the rights they require to store, organise and manage repository content. The licence presented here could be used by the EThOS central hub repository, or by other institutions wishing to set up their own repository and have content either harvested or physically held by EThOS. A model deposit agreement can be found here.

Further Information