Dissertations, Doctoral Projects, and Theses: Copyright

Who owns copyright in my dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis after it is published in DigitalGeorgetown and ProQuest?

You own the copyright in your dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis from the moment it is fixed in a tangible form, such as saved as a digital file. Nothing in the submission process to ProQuest or DigitalGeorgetown changes the ownership status of your work. As the copyright owner, you have the exclusive right to copy and distribute your work. When you submit your dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis, you will grant limited rights to Georgetown University and ProQuest so they can make your work available online.


When you sign the Electronic Thesis, Doctoral Project & Dissertation (ETD) Release, you grant a non-exclusive license to Georgetown University to make your dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis available online in the University's Institutional Repository, DigitalGeorgetown.


As part of the submission process through the ProQuest ETD Administrator, you will grant ProQuest a non-exclusive license to make your dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis available online in its subscription databases. For a fee, you may choose to make your work available open access on proquest.com.

Do I need to register my copyright?

Registering your copyright with the Copyright Office is not required for your work to be protected by copyright, but it is required if you ever need to enforce your rights through litigation. If you are considering registering your copyright, read more on our Copyright Registration page.

What do I do if I have used materials created by others (text, images, data, charts, etc.) in my work?

While there are unlikely to be any copyright concerns when third-party materials are shared only with your committee, after you submit your work to the Graduate School and it becomes available in DigitalGeorgetown to anyone with internet access, you must consider whether you are infringing any copyrights by making third-party works freely available. Both the DigitalGeorgetown release form and the ProQuest submission form require you to certify that you have obtained any necessary permissions for materials in your dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis.

If the materials you are using are in the public domain, have a Creative Commons license, or are fair uses, you may use them without permission from the copyright owner. In addition to the pages linked below, you may find our Copyright Videos useful to better understand your rights and responsibilities when using third-party materials in your work.

Public Domain

Materials in the public domain are not protected by copyright law, and therefore may be used freely. “Public domain” has a defined meaning under copyright law and does not mean materials publicly available on the internet. While there are several ways that a work may enter the public domain, the most likely is that copyright protection has expired. For 2022, anything published before 1927 can be used freely. Read more about the public domain on our Public Domain page.

Creative Commons

Some materials have a Creative Commons or other open license that allows materials to be reused with few or no restrictions. For materials found online, check the website’s terms and conditions to see whether the work may be used for noncommercial educational purposes.

Fair Use

Fair use permits the use of limited portions of a third-party work in a new work without permission or license fees. Absent unusual circumstances, properly cited direct quotations in your work will qualify as a fair use. For the use of other works, you will need to analyze the four fair use factors to determine whether your use is fair. Fair use determinations are subjective, fact-specific, and not completely risk-free since users and rights holders may disagree on whether a potential use is fair. To learn more about fair use, visit our Fair Use page.


If there are any materials in your dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis that are not public domain, Creative Commons, or fair use, you may be able to request permission to use them in your work. To learn more, visit our Requesting Permission page. Another option is to remove the copyrighted material from your work before submitting it through the ProQuest submission portal. You should note where any material in your dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis was redacted and describe what information has been removed.

Where can I get more information about copyright and my dissertation, doctoral project, or thesis?