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Re: Theos-World Interview with Brendan French PhD part I

Nov 29, 2001 02:14 AM
by gregory

Australian (and British) practice is that a thesis is different to any 
other literary work only to the extent that it must be accessible in the 
library of the University to which it was submitted. There are some 
exceptions to this, and the thesis (or parts of it) can be made not 
generally accessible if there are adequate reasons for doing so - e.g. 
protection of the identity of sources. The thesis must be available for 
examination within the library, and for use on the basis of the usual 
canons of fair practice. A thesis is no more nor less the property of the 
author, nor is the copyright different in any way, than in any other 
work. It cannot be reproduced except with the explicit permission of the 
author (or whoever else happens to own the copyright), or in the very 
limited terms allowed by the relevant copyright legislation. Reproduction 
in microform or electronically is the same as publication in book or 
other printed form - it has to be on the basis of explicit permission of 
the owner of the copyright. Thus, providers of microform or electronic 
versions must negotiate an agreement with the copyright owner. I do not 
know the US system; it may be different, and I'd be interested to hear if 
it is. Of course, even if someone has a legitimate copy of the whole or 
part of a thesis (e.g. a photocopied section lawfully obtained from the 
University library copy), they are still constrained by international and 
domestic copyright law from other than "fair dealing" with it. They 
can't, for example, publish more than reasonable portions of it and for 
prescribed purposes, and certainly cannot claim the work as their own. In 
my experience of supervising doctoral candidates, those who do not see 
much hope for the publication of their theses are quite happy to have 
them made available in microform or electronic form; those who foresee 
publication in book form would usually not allow this since publishers 
are generally uninterested in publishing books that have already been 
published (and in a form cheaper than books!).
In general, even having a legitimately obtained copy of a work does not 
allow - in the name of "review" or "criticism" - the reproduction (either 
directly or indirectly) of more than very minimal sections of the work. 
You can't, for example, reproduce a whole chapter of a book as a 
"quotation" in a work of your own, or preceding comments or criticisms of 
it! Most law does not explicitly state the limitations (using terms like 
"fair" or "reasonable"). But most Australian and British universities 
(including the one at which I teach) have strict internal policies to 
avoid any copyright litigation, and to constrain students who might be 
tempted to insert large chunks of other people's writings within 
quotation makrs as a way of filling up essay space.
Dr Gregory Tillett

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