Technically, when you finish writing your thesis and submit it to your college review team, you already have copyright protection, and you don’t have to worry about copyrighting a thesis. That said, in case you’re curious, this type of copyright lasts for seventy years past the date of your death. However, registering your thesis at various online services or even sending your document to the copyright office is another decision you’ll have to consider. Be reminded, however, that legally registering a thesis requires a fee.
Before launching into the advantages and disadvantages of copyrighting, I thought it important enough to give you a brief summary of copyright basics.
The Privileges of Copyrighting Your Work
When you copyright your work, it is considered in a court of law as being an intellectual property that is exclusive to you and no one else. As the owner of the copyrighted material, you can sell copies of it, distribute copies of it, and create new works and derivatives of it. If you somehow discover that someone other than you, the author, is using, selling, or distributing your material, you have the right to sue that person, which will stop the infringement of your work. Depending upon how you pursue the person or company who stole your work, you could also receive monetary compensation for all the losses you incurred that were a result of the copyright infringement.
Let’s now look at the pros and cons of copyrighting a thesis.
The Pros of Copyrighting Your Thesis
To give you a simple-to-read list of the advantages of copyrighting your thesis, the reasons are provided in summary form below.
- Protects your thesis from infringement. If you are planning to publish your thesis as an e-book, monograph, audiobook, video, or other multimedia formats, it will serve you well to register the copyright.
- Alerts readers before your thesis is approved. Although it isn’t necessary to display a statement inside your thesis alerting readers that the work is copyrighted, it does bring this important detail to their attention. It’s tough to consider infringing on your right as the copyrighted author when a legal disclaimer is staring the reader in the face.
- You can’t copyright ideas, but you can copyright everything you’ve written. We’ve all heard of cases of plagiarism, where one person steals another person’s thesis, then changes the title, a few headings, and then tries to pawn off the work as their own. When your thesis has been copyrighted and registered, you are protected.
- Monetary gains up to $150,000 in damages. If you have copyrighted your thesis and registered it through an online or physical company who provides such a service, you are protected and can receive money even without proving that you suffered monetary harm.
- Displaying a copyright notice in your thesis helps deter infringement. According to the U.S. copyright law, an author does not have to list a copyright notice in his or her work. But it does clearly show that you own the copyright, and that means you should also list the year that you copyrighted your thesis.
- Periodic online searches reveal if your content has been stolen or plagiarized. Certainly, you can do this regardless if you have registered your thesis or not, but it’s even more helpful when you can perform a search that reveals every single instance of where your thesis, in whole or in part, has been republished on the Internet, worldwide. Many plagiarism services exist, but my favorite is CopyScape (http://www.copyscape.com). For five cents, you can check up to 2,000 words of your thesis, and in less than one minute, every instance of its use will be listed, along with the URL, name of the site, and an exact match on that website of your words. This is the easiest and fastest way to check if someone has infringed on your thesis copyright.
- Protects all your hard work. If the nature of your thesis can be deemed as controversial, or if it’s a trending topic that is being discussed around the world, it is to your advantage to copyright and register your thesis just for your own protection of all the hours, months, and perhaps years you have invested in it. In addition, if your thesis is read and reviewed by even more than one person, your investment is protected.
The Cons of Copyrighting Your Thesis
Many students and professionals might disagree with the fact that I can even find items to list in this section, especially after citing examples of all the advantages of copyrighting a thesis, but I will let you be the judge. Here are the cons of copyrighting your thesis.
- Valuable Research Time. It takes time to review your copyright registration resources to decide the best platform for protecting your thesis. You must decide if you’ll copyright your thesis before anyone sees it, or if you’ll copyright it after it’s been approved at your university. Some students just want to be done with their thesis, and spending any additional time is not warranted by them.
- Financial Expenses. Depending on what type of financial resources are available to you, it can cost anywhere from $20 and upwards of $1,000 to copyright protect your thesis. Is it worth the money you will spend to get this done? Most students would say it’s not worth it.
- Forever searching online for plagiarism. Another reason for not copyrighting your thesis is you are released from feeling that you need to forever be searching online trying to see if someone, anyone has stolen your work. Some say it’s not worth the worry. If you did find copyright infringements, then you’d have to get involved in the first two points above, time and money. Most say it’s not worth it.
Registration Resources for Copyrighting a Thesis
For those who choose to submit their thesis to a registration service, which provides legal copyright protection in a fixed and tangible form, listed below are website addresses you will find helpful.
U.S. Copyright Office— http://www.copyright.gov/
ProQuest Thesis Registration— http://www.proquest.com/products-services/dissertations/submitting-dissertation-proquest.html
Writers Guild of America-West— https://www.wgawregistry.org/
The fees and submission processes are fully described in each of the copyright registration service websites listed above. Choose the one that’s best for you.