What can or can’t you do if you’ve done your thesis by publication? Well, as we often say in copyright – IT DEPENDS! 🙂
Most universities will require that you submit a digital copy of your thesis and most universities will encourage (although some mandate that) you to make your thesis available for open access – that is, to allow anyone to read it online, for free.
Usually the creator of a work is the copyright owner (and the choice to make a work available for open access or not, is up to the copyright owner). However, it’s important to understand that you might not be the copyright owner, or that you may be the copyright owner, but may have already agreed NOT to make your work available for open access.
Check your Research/Funding and Employment Contracts
If you’ve signed a research or funding contract, you may have assigned the copyright in your work to the research or funding body, or you may have made an agreement about how the published work can be accessed – either way – it means the choice is no longer yours. Similarly, if you signed an employment contract and your research relates to your employment – you may have also signed over your rights or agreed to making or restricting your work from being open access.
Check your Publishing Contracts
Every book chapter, every article, every publication you might have done as part of completing your thesis by publication should have had a publishing contract. Those publishing contracts are the key to knowing if you can or can’t upload a copy of your article/chapter into your institutional repository (and if you can, which VERSION of your work you’re able to upload).
What do the different versions mean?
Pre-print (the version you submitted to the publisher), post-print (the edited version that they sent back to you), published (the final published version).
Didn’t get a publishing contract?
It is highly unlikely that you would publish something without a contract between you and your publisher. Sometimes you will sign a publishing contract via a click through agreement online. That’s the sort of thing you might forget if you didn’t print or save
a copy. In any case, if you don’t have or can’t find your contract, then….
If you can’t find your funding/research/employment/publishing contract
, OR you can find them but not understand them; the best thing you can do is check in with your research/funding body/employer/publisher and check with them what you can and can’t do.
What if you’ve agreed to something you don’t want to do?
If your contract has locked you into something that you’re not happy with, then you need to ask for or negotiate a permission to do what you want with your work.