December 1997


Date sent: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 13:49:16 -0500 (EST)
From: "Kathryn D. Ellis" <>
Send reply to: "Kathryn D. Ellis" <>
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Subject: Article on Electronic Theses and Dissertations


I saw your article on ETDs mentioned in the Chronicle of Higher Education's Academe Today (11/21/97). The Chronicle's brief description included this final sentence: "One problem is that students must assign the copyrights on their work to universities in order to put it on line, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office requires a hard copy of each work before it will award a copyright."

I was flabbergasted by this statement, because the Patent and Trademark Office has nothing to do with Copyright administration. I wondered if the Chronicle had made a mistake. So I went to look at your article itself (at

You said at the beginning of the section on Copyrights and Publishing: "Copyrights of electronic theses and dissertations remain with the author; however, students assign rights to publish the electronic version online. But, currently, the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office requires a hard copy of a work in order to secure copyright; they do not accept disks or other digital forms for registration (Frank, 24 Jan. 1997)."

The article itself said the Patent[s] and Trademark[s] Office(!), but with a citation reference. I followed the link to the Email references and (after I figured out that I had to search in the file for the appropriate reference, rather than the link being to the particular email in question) found that your source consisted of one sentence, "One of the St. Pete librarians today said that they found out that the only way to copyright a disseration is to send hardcopy to LC. They don't accept disks for registration."

This source clearly indicated that "LC" is where copyright materials are registered. The source was herself citing another source and could hardly be considered authoritative. So I went to the Library of Congress web site and followed the link from their homepage to the Copyright web site (at They have lots of information on copyright registration, references to the legal code, and pointers to internet resources. They also have reports of their work to allow electronic registration of materials. From their site, I could not find anything that said they would not accept diskettes (I don't know if they do or don't, but it certainly wasn't obvious to me that they don't).

Copyright and intellectual property issues are confusing enough, without adding unnecessary false information. I don't know where you came up with the Patent and Trademark office, but I think it is shameful that it is so obviously wrong, doesn't match your cited source, apparently wasn't checked with the obvious source (the Copyright office), and was further propagated by [Computer-Mediated Communication] Magazine and the Chronicle of Higher Education. This is of concern to me, because poor scholarship reflects badly on all of us and this kind of careless work is exactly the kind of evidence our detractors use.


Kathryn D. Ellis, Librarian

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