Thesis & ETDR Copyright

As a graduate student, you will likely be expected to write an Electronic Thesis/Dissertation/Report (ETDR). While you may not hold copyright to all the images and figures you cite in your ETDR, you hold the copyright to your ETDR.

K-state also requires you place your final thesis into our digital repository. Please visit Electronic Theses, Dissertations, and Reports ( for more information on templates and submission forms. You may also find more copyright information in the Graduate School FAQ regarding intellectual property.

ETDR Copyright Protections

Your ETDR is an original work and is protected by copyright laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code). These laws give the copyright owner (in this case, you) exclusive rights to (or authorize others to):

  • reproduce,
  • distribute,
  • produce derivative works,
  • display,
  • or perform the work.

Copyright protection is automatic from the moment of creation, so a copyright notice (©) is not legally required to receive protection. For your ETDR it is recommended to include if you include an ETDR Copyright Page.

Registering ETDR Copyright

If you are formally registering your copyright, a copyright page will be required. You may register your ETDR through the U.S. Copyright Office or as part of the submission process to UMI/ProQuest (doctoral students only).

ETDR Copyright Page

Your ETDR copyright page is not required for deposit at K-state, but it is highly recommended. This is becuase a copyright page communicates the copyright status of your work and gives others information about who to contact for permissions. You can include the copyright page even if you do not register for copyright.

ETDR Copyright Page Template:

If you include a copyright page in your ETDR, the following information should appear on the page:

Copyright © Firstname Lastname YYYY.

For example,

Copyright © Will E. Wildcat 2017.

See the ETDR template for more information on your copyright page.

Reusing Content in your ETDR

When you reuse others' works, even if they are in the public domain (i.e. their copyright terms have expired or they never had copyright protection), you may not be infringing anyone's copyright, but you could be plagiarizing if you do not properly cite the work. Please see the Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement section of this page for more information. While proper citation is important, you must also comply with U.S. Copyright Law when reusing content in your ETDR. Please refer to Reusing Content or read the Framework for Analyzing any U.S. Copyright Problem, which breaks down how to legally use content in four sequential steps, before reading about the types of content (below) that are commonly used in ETDRs.

Here are the common types of content you might be using in your ETDR:

  • Charts, tables, and graphs
    • Depending on the type of figure you are using, the chart, table, or graph may have little to no copyright protection. Creativity is a condition of copyright protection, and often, charts, tables, and graphs are merely representations of data that is generated by a software program, such as Microsoft Excel, and thus many of them do not have copyright protection. Take a few moments to read the "Copyrightability of Tables, Charts, and Graphs" from the University of Michigan in order to become more familiar with these distinctions. If a work (e.g. a graph) has no copyright protection, then you are free to use the work. If you feel that the work may have a minimal level of creativity, then you may need to rely on fair use. If you obtained the figure from an Open Access (OA) journal, such as the Public Library of Science, the paper and any of the figures likely have a Creative Commons License that allows for the reuse of the work.
  • Quotations
    • Short quotations of copyrighted material are generally considered fair use. If you are quoting from a work that is either in the public domain or has an open license, such as a Creative Commons License, then you do not have to worry about relying on an exemption in the law such as fair use (see below).
  • Pictorial and graphic materials
    • If you are using pictorial and graphic materials in your ETDR, The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts is recommended reading, especially if you plan to use these types of material later in your career. The first principle (pages 9-10) outlines analytic writing, which will be central to writing your ETDR. Also see fair use (below) for more key points.
  • Survey instruments and standardized tests
    • If you plan to include published survey instruments or standardized tests in your ETDR, you should obtain permission. Keep in mind that standardized test publishers generally do not want their tests widely circulated and are unlikely to grant permission to reproduce them.