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Legal issues checklist

Guidance

This checklist is intended for use by Librarians and Memorandum of Understanding leads. It does not comprise legal guidance, but identifies issues for institutions to consider and act on when making theses available in Institutional Repositories and EThOS.
The checklist will:
  • Help ensure that you have identified risks and taken adequate action to manage or avoid risks that have been identified
  • Provide a quick reference guide for identifying, developing and implementing the appropriate internal policies and procedures to support the approach the institution wishes to take
  • Highlight the need to review existing institutional policies which may be associated with legal issues which might arise, such as plagiarism and Freedom of Information.

Risk Assessment

In using the checklist, many of the decisions that librarians and authors make will be influenced by their view of the risks involved in taking a course of action. The default position of the EThOS service (following a legal risk assessment) is to offer an ‘opt-out’ approach to author permissions, thus allowing provision of theses in view of challenges in making contact with the author. This decision is then mitigated by a rapid take-down policy should an author or third party object. However, it is understood that each institution manages copyright and other legal risks differently when considering financial and reputational damage to their institution, and as such, the checklist below should help in determining how much or little involvement is required in submitting a thesis to both institutional repositories and EThOS.

Check List

Does your Institution already have conditions of deposit or a mechanism for Students to grant permission to use their thesis on your Institutional Repository?

If not, you can carry out of a risk assessment around posting a thesis to the Institutional Repository without the permission of the author, and on the basis of this risk assessment carry out one or more of the following actions:
  • Request permission from the authors (see Letter 1)
  • Notify authors that their theses have been used on an opt-out basis (see Letter 3 and Letter 4)
  • Instigate a Notice and Takedown Policy
  • Ensure that in the future students sign an appropriate 'deposit agreement' on submission of their thesis. A model deposit agreement from 2008 is available to download here.
Does your Institution have a mechanism for authors (students) to grant permission to include their thesis in EThOS?

If not, you can carry out of a risk assessment around including a thesis in EThOS without the permission of the authors, and on the basis of this risk assessment carry out one or more of the following actions:
  • Request permission from the authors (see Letter 5)
  • Notify authors that their theses have been used on an opt-out basis (see Letter 3 and Letter 4)
  • Instigate a Notice and Takedown Policy
  • Ensure that in the future students sign an appropriate 'deposit agreement' on submission of their thesis. A model deposit agreement from 2008 is available to download here.
Have you taken account of any third party content which might be included within the thesis?

If not, you can carry out of a risk assessment around the possible presence of third party content within a thesis, and on the basis of this risk assessment carry out one or more of the following actions:
  • The Institution or the author can seek permission from the third party copyright holder (see Letter 2)
  • Edit the digitised thesis to remove any third party content for which permission has not been granted
  • Instigate a Notice and Takedown Policy
Does your institution have an appropriate person or persons who is authorised to decide if the content found available on your Institutional Repository is offending?

If not, it is suggested that this responsibility is clearly assigned to an appropriate person or persons.

Have you taken account of any content which might be included within the thesis which could be classed as obscene, libellous, inciting racial hatred, inciting terrorism and inappropriate in any other way?

If not, you can carry out of a risk assessment around the possible presence of content that may fall into these categories within a thesis, and on the basis of this risk assessment carry out one or more of the following actions:
Does your Institution have a Data Protection Policy?

Your institution will be obliged to ensure that such a policy is in operation. Where your Institution collects personal data associated with any theses it needs to ensure compliance with its Data Protection Policy.

Other issues requiring attention

  1. Does your Institution include clear policies to comply with Freedom of Information legislation whether by ensuring that appropriate information is available through a publication scheme, or having procedures are in place to respond to a freedom of information request within the time limit?
  2. Is access to digitised theses available to disabled staff and students?
  3. Does your Institution’s policy provide specific instructions for users on how they can report any offending material (e.g. copyright infringing, defamatory, obscene content etc) found available on your Institutional Repository?
  4. Does your institution’s policy provide for a Notice and Takedown Policy in case offending material is found in theses, which supports the Notice and Take Down Policy operated as part of EThOS?
Further Information
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