December 1997


Date sent: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 19:13:19 -0500 (EST)
From: "Janice Walker (ENG)" <>
To: "Kathryn D. Ellis" <>
Copies to:,,,
Subject: Re: Article on Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Dr. Ellis:

Thank you for taking the time to check out this information so thoroughly. This points to the benefits of peer review of articles, where areas that are potentially confusing and proofreading errors can often be caught prior to publication. However, I think this also says something about the nature of publication on the Web, that "peer review" can extend to the readers rather than remaining with a small group who may or may not have knowledge of all areas referenced in a given publication.

As you have pointed out, issues of copyright are confusing enough, without inadvertently adding to this confusion. Although a work is copyrighted the moment it is "fixed in a tangible form of expression" ("Copyright Basics"), the Library of Congress (LOC) does currently require a hard (paper) copy deposit of publishedworks (see "Mandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonorecords"). The Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights (WGIPR), chaired by Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Bruce A. Lehman, recommended that the Copyright office also require registration and deposit of works published on the World Wide Web "Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure" . As far as I can ascertain, the LOC has not yet determined exactly how, or if, hypermedia publications on the WWW differ from computer programs for purposes of this requirement, necessitating deposit of a hard (paper) copy printout of a portion of the source code in addition to deposit of the electronic medium ("Copyright Basics"). Universities do not currently require that authors of theses and dissertations formally file for registration of copyright, although they

may be encouraged to do so. Publication of electronic theses and dissertations (or ETDs) on the WWW, however, could change this. Further, although copyrights remain with the authors, they must assign at least one-time only rights to the university before it can publish the electronic versions online. The WGIPR recommendations have not yet become law, and exactly how to handle hypermedia and other electronic publications for purposes of copyright is still, as far as I know, being debated. The issue for this article, however, is that publication of ETDs on the WWW could have a detrimental effect on an author's ability to publish the work in more traditional print journal or monograph formats, since many publishers require assignment of first-time publication rights. Of course, print copies of dissertations are already publicly available, but publishers have not been concerned with this in the past. Some publishers have, however, already expressed concerned over publication of ETDs on the WWW.

Hopefully, I have clarified any misconceptions about our intent in this article, and I hope this exchange will prompt further discussion of these issues. Copyright legislation is still being reconsidered in light of the proliferation of electronic publication. Until such legislation is enacted, it is difficult to determine what effect these issues may have on the future of scholarly publications. I hope the community of scholars--those publishing in traditional formats as well as those publishing in electronic ones--will take an active role in this debate.

Janice R. Walker, Dept. of English         Email
University of South Florida                (813) 974-2421
Tampa, FL  33620			   (813) 974-2270 (Fax)

[EDITOR's NOTE: An annotation has been placed on the original article with a clarification and pointing to this email exchange. --]

Contents Archive Sponsors Studies Contact