Graduate School
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Access, Copyright, and Fair Use Exceptions

Internet Distribution 

All theses and dissertations will be included in the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database and the ECU Institutional Repository, subject to the publishing agreement and any embargo period selected by the student. In certain instances, a complete restriction of the work (Bibliographic data, abstract, and full text) may be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.  Students will sign an agreement with Proquest setting forth the terms of ProQuest’s services.

Dissertations and theses received in digital format will be processed by UMI Dissertations Publishing in a manner identical to paper documents. Bibliographic citations and abstracts for these documents will be published in Dissertation Abstracts International or Masters Abstracts International in print, online, CD-ROM and microform. Before loading the PDF format of the document in its database, Proquest will check for document integrity and copyright compliance. If the document appears to be incomplete or if there are questions about the reproduction of previously copyrighted materials, publication will be delayed until those concerns are resolved.

As a condition of enrollment at ECU, each student grants the University a limited, non-exclusive royalty-free license to reproduce the student’s dissertation or thesis, in whole or in part, in electronic form to be posted on the ECU Institutional Repository and made available according to the publishing option selected by the student and subject to any embargo period selected:

Open Access:  Immediate release of Work for free access worldwide on the Internet.


Campus Access:  Immediate release of the entire Work for access only by ECU faculty, students and staff (access authenticated by valid PirateID).   Availability of the full text of the dissertation or thesis will be subject to any embargo period selected by the student.

Delayed Access: Embargo the entire work for patent and/or proprietary purposes for a period of 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years with open access or campus access at the end of the embargo period. 


ProQuest is the Library of Congress’ official offsite repository for dissertations and theses in digital format. They are stored as TIFFs and PDF in online electronic vaults. In addition, dissertations and theses are archived on two copies of microform stored in separate vaults.


A copyright is an intangible right granted to the author or originator of certain literary or artistic productions, under which he or she is invested for a limited period with the sole, exclusive privilege of making copies and publishing and selling them. 

Copyright protection automatically exists from the time the work is created in fixed form. There is no requirement that the work be published or registered to obtain protection under copyright law. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work unless it is a work-for-hire or unless ownership has been assigned by written agreement. 

While a legal formality, if you wish to copyright your thesis or dissertation, East Carolina University requires that you include a copyright notice following the title page. Typical copyright notices take this form: 

Copyright 2008, Jane E. Student or © 2008, Jane E. Student. 

Copyright registration establishes a public record of your thesis or dissertation and copyright. In the U.S., registration is required before you can file an infringement lawsuit. Registration also allows you to be awarded damages and attorney fees in an infringement action. Generally, you must have registered before the infringement occurs to have these benefits.

For a fee, you may authorize ProQuest to file the registration application on your behalf. Or, you may file the application yourself with the U.S. Copyright Office, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, DC 20559-6000. For more information, see the U.S. Copyright Office Website.

Fair Use Exceptions to Copyright Law

Below are links to information that can be used to help determine if the use of previously published materials falls under the fair use exception to copyright law. There is also an interactive “Fair Use Evaluator” available from the ALA Office for Information Policy at